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Sheikh Jarrah activists included in Time Magazine most influential list

CM 17/09/2021

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Palestinian activist siblings Mohammed El-Kurd and Muna El-Kurd were included in the prestigious Time Magazine list of the 100 most influential people of 2021, which was published on September 15, reviving heavy criticism of the twins.
Time magazine selected the El-Kurd siblings for their list because they were the most recognizable, “charismatic and bold” activists speaking about the tensions surrounding the Sheikh Jarrah property dispute, which was one of the contributing factors to an escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict that culminated in the Operation Guardian of the Walls. 
In a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday, Mohammed said that while it was positive that he and his sister had made it on the list, it was only symbolic, and alone not enough to further the Palestinian cause, Al-Jazeera reported.

The El-Kurd siblings’ inclusion on the Time Magazine list has not been well received by some NGOs and Israeli activists.
“The only credible manner in which the el-Kurd twins should have been promoted by TIME would be as the face of socially acceptable antisemitism .” Adam Levick, co-editor of CAMERA UK, told The Jerusalem Post. “The influence of the pair — particularly Mohammed — is that they demonstrate how to use the language of ‘anti-racism’ to campaign for an agenda that is racist towards Jews.”

 A woman takes a selfie with prominent Palestinian activist Muna El-Kurd at the courtyard of Muna's house in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD) A woman takes a selfie with prominent Palestinian activist Muna El-Kurd at the courtyard of Muna’s house in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

“The fact that Muna and Mohammed El-Kurd have a history of disseminating some of the vilest antisemitic and pro-terror sentiments on social media is clearly not of too much interest to Time,” IsraellyCool blogger David Lange told the Post. “The facts they are photogenic and all too ready to bash Israel at every given opportunity is.”
According to Time‘s biography of the 23-year-old siblings, the El-Kurds “challenged existing narratives about Palestinian resistance through viral posts and interviews, humanizing the experiences of their neighbors and pushing back against suggestions that violence was being predominantly carried out by Palestinians.”
The el-Kurd biography,  written by Time reporter Sanya Mansoor, has also received backlash. 
“To say they are pushing back against prevailing narratives that Palestinians are responsible for the violence, especially in reference to Operation Guardians of the Wall when we received over 4,000 rockets from Hamas, is absurd,” Emily Schrader, a research fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute and social activist for combating online hate speech, told the Post.
“Time regurgitates the debunked narrative that the Hamas-initiated war was actually provoked by Israel.” Emanuel Miller, media analyst at HonestReporting, told the Post. “There is no justification for Hamas’ decision to fire rockets at civilians, and painting it as a reaction to Israeli policing of rioters on the Temple Mount — incorrectly described as an attack on worshippers — essentially spreads Hamas propaganda. Misrepresenting upholding law and order as Israeli forces attacking worshippers is a stunning inversion of reality.”
In an article about its decisions for its 2021 selections,  Edward Felsenthal, the Editor-in-Chief and CEO of Time explained that they largely sought to feature “extraordinary leaders from around the world working to build a better future.” The 18th most influential list “is a community of leaders whose energy and commitment we hope inspires others to spring into action as well.” 
“Mohammed and Muna El Kurd are not influential or famous rather they are infamous for their extremism and radicalized rhetoric. That isn’t something Time should be rewarding,” Schrader told the Post.
The Sheikh Jarrah property dispute is a 50 year battle about the homes of 28 families of east Jerusalem Palestinians that claim ownership to the land in accordance with a Jordanian project prior to the 1967 Six-Day War. However, Jordan never registered the properties. Israeli Jewish property owners also claim the homes, based on deeds and prior residency in the houses before the 1949 Armistice. Israeli courts have upheld the Jewish owner’s claims, but eviction orders have been delayed due to the political controversy.  
In June, Muna was arrested for suspicion of “participating in disturbing the peace and in riots,” during protests over the pending evictions. Mohammed was also later taken into custody, under the same charges. They were released several hours later.
Mohammed El-Kurd and Muna El-Kurd gained prominence through social media activism arguing their position on the Sheikh Jarrah property disputes and were behind the popular hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah. At the time of writing, Muna has 1.6 million followers on Instagram, and her brother, 232 thousand followers on Twitter. The siblings gained greater prominence when they were invited by mainstream media outlets to interviews about the dispute.
Critics allege that the El-Kurds have used their social media presence to promote terrorism and dehumanization of Israelis.
“Muna has repeatedly supported convicted terrorists, and Mohammed openly supports violence against civilians,” said Schrader.
“An honest appraisal of Mohammed el-Kurds record of online comments would include his opposition to the existence of a Jewish state within any borders, his support for terrorism, his call to ethnically cleanse Israeli Jews, and one tweet that can reasonably be interpreted as a justification for the mass murder of Jews,” Levick told the Post, referencing several controversial tweets from Mohammed’s account.
“The demonizing rhetoric towards Israel and Jews used by the Kurds and fellow activists is one of the factors that caused the dangerous surge in antisemitism during the May war between Israel and Hamas. TIME’s failure to so much as mention their anti-Jewish rhetoric is a stunning moral abdication, Levick continued.
“The El-Kurd twins have spreads horrific lies about the Jewish state, whitewashed Hamas’ actions and glorified jailed terrorists,” StopAntisemitism.org told the Post.
 Mohammed El-Kurd was named The Nation’s “Palestine correspondent” on Tuesday, which has also garnered controversy. The Nation responded to negative responses about El-Kurd’s new position with a statement saying that they would not be “intimidated into maintaining” the silencing of “Palestinian voices.”
“Mohammed el-Kurd is an excellent example of the media and politicized NGOs lionizing Palestinian activists, despite their questionable motives and tactics,” Eitan Fischberger of NGO Monitor said to the Post. “El-Kurd routinely spreads lies created by Palestinian NGOs that seek to delegitimize Israel in the international arena. With el-Kurd, NGOs, and partisan media outlets all promoting each other’s work, we are witnessing a group of activists engaging in political warfare with the goal of impacting how Israel is perceived internationally.”
Several other controversial influential figures were included on the list. Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi and the Taliban’s acting deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was also included in the list. Bennett shared with Yair Lapid the top slot for The Jerusalem Post’s top 50 most influential Jewish people of 2021.
Time magazine first created the list of 100 most influential people in 1999 and has been received with fanfare every year as a mark of prestige.
Khaled Abu Toameh, Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.


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