TIME 100 list: For Muna and Mohammed al-Kurd, nomination is encouraging but ‘not enough’

Muna al-Kurd (23) has long been an advocate highlighting the plight of Sheikh Jarrah's residents (Ibrahim Husseini - Al-Jazeera)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  September 16, 2021

The Palestinian siblings, who have become figureheads of the legal battle in Sheikh Jarrah, see international attention as positive, but say more is needed.

Two prominent Palestinian activists from occupied East Jerusalem, siblings Muna and Mohammed al-Kurd, may have been named by TIME magazine among the 100 most influential people in the world for 2021 – but for them, the recognition is “not enough to advocate Palestinian people”.

The Kurd family are inhabitants of Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, whose residents led a very public battle earlier this year against an Israeli court order seeking to expel them from their homes.

There were already large-scale protests in Sheikh Jarrah, but tensions escalated significantly following the violent storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli forces during the holy month of Ramadan, an event that was followed by an 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip.

The 23-years-old twins were born and raised in one of the Sheikh Jarrah homes claimed by Israeli settler groups. As events unfolded they came to represent the young, social media-savvy generation of Palestinians, who exposed in fluent English Israel’s land grab and military practices against Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank, and the besieged Gaza Strip.

In its annual list unveiled on Wednesday, TIME hailed the Kurds for providing “the world with a window into living under occupation in East Jerusalem this spring, helping to prompt an international shift in rhetoric in regard to Israel and Palestine”.

Muna and Mohammed al-Kurd appeared on TV, speaking in Arabic and English, and posted on social media to recount their years of trial and tribulations dealing with Israeli forces and settler groups. 

Yet, for them, TIME magazine’s recognition is too little, too late.

In a statement shared on social media, Mohammed said that the “creation of symbols, which reduces the struggle of a whole people in one face, is not enough to advocate the Palestinian people”.

However, he affirmed that their nomination to the list was “perhaps a positive indication towards putting the Palestinian cause at the centre of the international stage”.

But 73 years after the establishment of the state of Israel and the Nakba, they say more is needed.

“What we are demanding is a radical and tangible change to the media system worldwide (including TIME) to end its bias towards Zionism and push them to be more courageous in talking about liberation movements and the Palestinian resistance in all its forms,” Mohammed wrote.

The young generation of Palestinian activists now gaining global attention is “the product of accumulative organizing and the struggle of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who resisted the colonial system for seven decades without being thanked or acknowledge internationally”, he noted.

TIME editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said that the Top 100 list features “extraordinary leaders from around the world working to build a better future”, who “in a year of crisis have leaped into the fray”.

Along with Muna and Mohammed al-Kurd, TIME named influential figures including Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, American pop star Britney Spears, and the UK’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, who quit royal duties and relocated to the United States in 2020.

THE 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE OF 2021 – CATEGORY ICONS

Muna El-Kurd and Mohammed El-Kurd

by Sanya Mansoor

Time Magazine  /  September 15, 2021

Through online posts and media appearances, sibling activists Mohammed and Muna El-Kurd provided the world with a window into living under occupation in East Jerusalem this spring—helping to prompt an international shift in rhetoric in regard to Israel and Palestine.

For more than a decade, the El-Kurd family, along with dozens of their neighbors in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, has been fighting against the possibility of forced removal from their homes by Israeli settlers. In May, tensions in Sheikh Jarrah spilled into the nearby Old City, where Israeli forces attacked worshippers at the al-Aqsa mosque; Hamas militants in Gaza responded with rocket fire into Israel. Mohammed and Muna El-Kurd—who were temporarily detained by Israeli authorities this summer—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. Charismatic and bold, they became the most recognizable voices of those threatened with losing their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. Around the world, their grassroots organizing helped inspire the Palestinian diaspora to renew protests. And in the U.S., long Israel’s strongest ally, polls show growing support for Palestinians, so far without any cost to public support for Israel.

Sanya Mansoor is a TIME reporter