Germany’s leading cultural institute revokes an invitation to the controversial Palestinian writer

The German state-run Goethe Institute did not invite a Palestinian poet and writer to speak at a conference later this month due to his past comments on Israel, after which other attendees withdrew in protest.

Muhammad Al-Kurd was to speak at a round table at the summit of the institute “Beyond the Lone Offender – Dynamics of the Global Right”, scheduled from 23 to 26 June in Hamburg. The meeting aims to examine “the impact of far-right movements and their global interweaving”.

The panel in question was to be hosted by artist Moshtari Hilal and essayist Sinthujan Varatharajah, both based in Berlin, who invited Al-Kurd as a speaker for a panel discussion entitled “Selling Fascism? Remembering the unsold”.

On Friday the institute released a declaration on Twitter saying he canceled Al-Kurd’s participation.

“After some consideration”, the institute decided that Al-Kurd “was not an appropriate speaker for this forum,” he said.

“In previous social media posts, he had made several comments about Israel in a way that the Goethe Institute does not find acceptable, especially since the next forum aims to discuss, among other things, possibilities and ways to improve social discourse.” explained the institute.

He noted that “the necessary internal coordination” only took place after Al-Kurd had already scheduled the floor.

In a joint statement posted on Varatharajah’s Twitter account, Hilal and Varatharajah wrote that they were withdrawing from the event and that “our cancellation is in response to attempts by the Goethe Institute to intervene in our curatorial decisions and thereby, to impose a climate of anti-Palestinian censorship ”.

“The Goethe Institute’s veto against Al-Kurd calls into question the very purpose of this conference”, they said, and “added to a climate of anti-Palestinian racism”.

“This cannot be tolerated or supported in any way by us,” they wrote.

They accused the institution of deciding “explicitly” that “violence affecting Palestinians may not be named and discussed in a global right dynamics program in Germany, effectively devaluing Palestinian oppression as unworthy of discussion.”

Saying that the Goethe Institute was “the German cultural embassy”, they noted that the German consulate had ignored Al-Kurd’s requests to process a visa for his visit. Germany, they said, was embracing “a racist policy to stifle Palestinian dissent in the country”.

The institute said that “although we disagree with the reasoning behind their canceled participation, we regret and respect their decision.” He added that he had made an offer for further talks which had not been accepted so far.

Al-Kurd and his twin sister, Muna, from the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, got a spot on Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list in 2021 for their activism. Both were arrested in June 2021 on suspicion of participating in riots in the flashpoint neighborhood, but were subsequently released.

Al-Kurd has been accused of using anti-Semitic tropes in his poetry and on social media. He is the Palestinian correspondent for The Nation.

In January, he tweeted: “Fuck Israel and fuck the genocidal death cult that is Zionism.”

Most recently, on June 3, after a 17-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by the IDF during clashes near the security fence, he tweeted “Zionism is dead.”

Two days earlier he commented on a claim that the BBC had modified its report to remove references to violence by right-wing Israelis. to write: “Why do the rules of journalism bend to pamper the defenders of Zionism and their delusional beliefs about the bloody and bloodthirsty Israeli regime?”

He also posted anti-American messages, to write in August last year: “The US military is a murderous terrorist organization.”

US President Joe Biden “is not a failure, he is a successful war criminal,” wrote Al-Kurd.

The next day, referring to US war veterans, him he wrote“May their PTSD never heal.”

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