Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian writer and activist who has passionately spoken out against Israel’s forced evictions, was forcibly removed from his Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood by Israeli forces on Wednesday—a day after he appeared on CNN and MSNBC and accused Israel of “ethnically cleansing” Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
Cross-border fighting along the Gaza Strip quickly escalated this week after Israeli law enforcement stormed Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, wounding over 300 Palestinians. The incident came amidst growing protests over a court case that could see dozens of Palestinians evicted from their East Jerusalem homes.
To address the ongoing violence, El-Kurd granted interviews to several Western media outlets, two of which soon went viral on social media.
During his appearance on CNN International, El-Kurd quickly pushed back on the anchor for saying his “family home was slated for eviction,” stating that this was “not an eviction” and instead was “forced ethnic displacement.” He added that, per international law, Israel doesn’t have legitimate jurisdiction over occupied East Jerusalem, and does not have the legal authority to evict Palestinians from the area.
“Do you support the protests, the violent protests, that have erupted in solidarity with you and other families in your position right now?” the anchor asked at one point.
“Do you support the violent dispossession of me and my family?” El-Kurd shot back.
Meanwhile, a barrage of rocket fire from Hamas forces in Gaza over the past few days has left at least five Israelis dead, Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 65 Palestinians, including children. Numerous residential and business properties have been decimated in the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli military has said it has killed at least two key Hamas military figures in the strikes.
In another interview with MSNBC anchor Ayman Mohelydin, who is of Palestinian descent and once lived in Gaza, El-Kurd heavily criticized the Israeli assertion that the issue is nothing more than a “private land dispute.”
“Today the difference we have is that they no longer use their artillery to steal our homes except when they do come and steal their homes,” he declared. “Now they use a supremacist, colonial judicial system that colludes with organizations to take our homes. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s moral or correct or historically just. What’s happening to us is ethnic cleansing.”
Immediately following El-Kurd’s appearance, Mohyeldin welcomed on Mark Regev, a former Israeli ambassador and current adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During the contentious interview, which featured Mohyeldin challenging Regev on whether or not Israel was responsible for “war crimes” against the Palestinians, the ex-ambassador called out El-Kurd specifically.
“He basically said Israel had no right to exist. He said my country was built on stealing other people’s land,” Regev exclaimed. “So you have different opinions on both sides, very strong opinions on both sides.”
Less than 24 hours after these interviews, armed Israeli soldiers marched El-Kurd and his family out of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. At one point, one soldier pushed aside a woman who tried to hold El-Kurd’s hand.
After escorting him through the streets, the soldiers aggressively shoved him outside the steel barricades marking the boundaries of the neighborhood. “Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!” El-Kurd shouted at the soldiers in Arabic in response.
El-Kurd's sister was also kicked out of the neighborhood by the Israeli forces and repeatedly pushed back by soldiers when she tried to re-enter the barricaded entrance.
In a statement on Twitter, El-Kurd said he was “fine & unintimidated,” adding, “our protest was nonviolent, this was probably targeted (not that nonviolence is superior). the settlers, who are allowed in while we’re kicked out, are armed w knives & guns. the soldiers tonight were animalistic, howling & glaring. they’re big mad.”
A spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces did not immediately respond when asked for comment about the expelling of El-Kurd from his neighborhood.