In another indication of growing anti-Palestinian racism in Europe, a cultural centre funded by the German government, the Goethe Institute, has disinvited Palestinian poet and writer Mohammed El-Kurd from a round table discussion titled “Selling Fascism? Remembering the Unsold”. El-Kurd came to prominence in 2021 after resisting Israel’s eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem.
He was invited to take part in the three-day conference to be held in Hamburg later this month to speak about the rise of the global far right. The panel in which the 24-year-old was scheduled to speak was to be hosted by artist Moshtari Hilal and essayist Sinthujan Varatharajah, both based in Berlin.
“After some consideration, the Goethe Institute decided that Mohammed El-Kurd was not an appropriate speaker for this forum,” tweeted the centre. It mentioned previous posts on social media by the Palestinian activist which it “did not find acceptable”, although it did not cite any examples.
In response, Hilal and Varatharajah have pulled out of the event and denounced the German cultural centre. “Our cancellation is in response to Goethe Institute’s attempts to intervene in our curatorial decisions and by way of it, enforce a climate of anti-Palestinian censorship,” they explained. “Goethe Institute’s veto against El-Kurd calls into question the very purpose of this conference.” This, they suggested, adds to a growing climate of anti-Palestinian racism. “This cannot be tolerated or supported by us in any way. “[The institute] is explicitly deciding that the violence that affects Palestinians may not be named and discussed in a programme on the dynamics of the global right in Germany, effectively devaluing Palestinian oppression as unworthy of discussion.”
It’s not clear which one of El-Kurd’s tweets was deemed unacceptable to the institute and if those tweets include those exposing the rise of far-right Israeli settlers. The prominent Palestinian activist has been outspoken about Israel’s practice of apartheid and the so called flag march during which, last month, ultra-nationalist Israeli mobs, often described as Israel’s version of the Ku Klux Klan, sang: “Shu’afat is on fire” (a reference to a Palestinian burnt to death by settlers); “A Jew is a soul, an Arab is a son of a whore”; “Death to the Arabs”; “Muhammad is dead”; and “May your village burn”. One video shows them chanting, “Shireen [Abu Akleh] is a whore”.
Twitter users have been quick to respond and condemn the German organisation. “What comments are you referring to?” asked one twitter user who shared an image of what seems to be a poem by El-Kurd describing Israel’s erasure and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. “Are these @m7mdkurd’s comments you can’t ultimate tolerate? You should apologise publicly for censoring critical voices which make Germany feel not at ease with its past and its role in reproducing settler colonial apartheid in Palestine.”