Explained: Who is Mohamed al-Kurd, who was rejected by the Goethe-Institut for ‘unacceptable’ comments on Israel?

British-Pakistani writer Mohamed Hanif has reacted sharply to the withdrawal of invitation to Palestinian poet and activist Mohamed al-Kurd from a conference organized by the German cultural non-profit Goethe-Institut in Hamburg, Germany.

On June 21, the author of “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” (2008), “Our Lady of Alice Bhatti” (2011), and “Red Birds” (2018) announced on Twitter that she “(the)… The conference where he first invited and then invited … Mohamed al Kurd. The reason is even more objectionable. Apparently the Kurds are not respectful enough to Israel. How do you say bugger off in German?”

The ‘Beyond the Lone Offender – Dynamics of the Global Right’ summit to be held from 23 to 26 June will “focus on the impact of far-right movements and their global entanglements”. The Goethe-Institut announced its decision to invite el-Kurds on Twitter on 17 June: “After some consideration, the Goethe-Institut decided that Mohamed al-Kurd was not a suitable speaker for this forum: In a previous post on social media, he had made several comments about Israel in a way that would not be acceptable to the Goethe-Institute…”

Mohamed Al-Kurdo

Twenty-four-year-old Al-Kurd is a poet-activist from Palestine who grew up primarily in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. He was 11 when part of his family home was taken over by Israeli settlers. In 2013, he was the protagonist of a documentary film ‘My Neighborhood’ by documentary filmmakers Julia Bacha of Brazil and American Rebekah Wingert-Jab.

Al-Kurd and his twin sister Muna began documenting the forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and put them on social media to spread awareness about the humanitarian impact of the crisis in the region. Both the siblings have millions of followers on social media. He was briefly arrested by Israeli security forces last year for his role in protesting a possible eviction in East Jerusalem.

Al-Kurd rose to prominence early last year after his interviews with US news organizations such as CNN and NBC, in which he spoke about Israeli-Palestinian violence and the need to change the methods of forcible occupation of the region. Media went viral.
“To begin with, it is not really an expulsion, it entails ethnic displacement to be precise, as eviction means a legal right, whereas Israel’s occupation of the eastern parts of occupied Jerusalem under international law There is no lawful jurisdiction…” he told CNN.

Al-Kurd later contacted the American news magazine The Nation, requesting them to create a dedicated Palestine Department in the organisation. Kurd is currently the magazine’s Palestine correspondent, a role that was created for him.

education and writing

Al-Kurd studied poetry at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, USA. He was pursuing an MFA in poetry at Brooklyn College, New York, in 2021 when escalating violence in the Gaza Strip took him back to Palestine.

In 2019, her spoken-word album, Bellydancing on Wounds, came out. His first collection of poems, Rifka, was published last year by Haymarket Books to favorable reviews.

In his review in LARB, Palestinian-American poet and editor Samar Farah wrote, “Rifka beautifully explores the ways that colonialism changed our navigation of time and space – a journey of a few miles could take a lifetime. , an event that happened 73 years ago, is happening. For the first time yesterday, and the city you fled from can be recreated where you land. In the work of al-Kurd, the Palestinian visionaries who came before them the sound of it.”

Al-Kurd Activism

Unlike his twins, El-Kurd chooses to write in English to take his concerns to a wider audience.

In a post titled “An Attempt at a Simple Understanding of Privileges” published on the online platform Medium in November 2016, El-Kurd wrote, “Growing up in Jerusalem, Palestine, I found a completely different version of what is ‘normal’. ‘ Basic human rights and freedom of movement were luxuries; being deprived of the right to build houses on our land was the norm; and the so-called bizarre and extraordinary were our everyday reality. Simply because we had only one version of reality, so no comparison Not once in my early life did I think that ‘things shouldn’t be like this.'”

When he became aware of the degree of privilege that separated the individuals, el-Kurd wrote that he could no longer be impervious to it. “I am less privileged by nationality and privileged by the opportunities that have been provided to me. I am bound to use this position in a constructive manner that prevents me from falling into the trap of self-indulgence and denial. Privileges The system in all its forms must be abolished. We must once again consider a new dynamic, which redefines privilege in the light of necessities and luxuries,” he wrote in the same piece.