Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a student group at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, is hosting Palestinian activist and poet Mohammad El-Kurd for a Jan. 21 discussion on campus.
El-Kurd is known for his vehement criticism of Israel, Israelis, and Zionists that often includes antisemitic tropes. He has said that Israelis have an “unquenchable thirst for Palestinian blood” and has compared Jews to Nazis for the actions of the state of Israel.
The poet is from Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in Jerusalem that, through a complicated legal history, is now a flashpoint for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jewish Israelis are using a controversial Israeli law to evict Palestinian families from the area, sparking protests that culminated in the May 2021 war between Israel and Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza.
In a joint statement, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas and Minnesota Hillel condemned SJP for inviting El-Kurd:
“By evoking the ancient ‘blood libel’ against the Jewish people and deploying other antisemitic tropes, El-Kurd demonstrably crosses the line between legitimate criticism of Israel’s government into dangerous Jew-hatred. That the conflict is personal for El-Kurd, who originates from the deeply contested Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, cannot in any way excuse his blatant antisemitism.
“It is not surprising that SJP decided to invite such a notorious antisemite to speak at the University of Minnesota. Like El-Kurd, SJP frequently engages in similar speech and presents the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians through a simplistic Manichean worldview where Palestinians are infantilized as completely helpless victims without any agency of their own and Jewish Israelis are cast as bloodthirsty monsters. Such a zero-sum view of the conflict does an incredible disservice to both Palestinians and Israelis, two indigenous people intrinsically connected to the same piece of land. Both deserving of peace and the dignity of sovereignty.
“For years both the JCRC and Minnesota Hillel have advocated for a more thoughtful approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the University of Minnesota. For example, we have urged the University to invest in the people and economies of Israel and Palestine. Moreover, we have brought speakers such as Yossi Klein Halevi who model civility and the necessity of standing proudly in our own stories while creating understanding across differences. We trust that most students, faculty, and staff will recognize the advantages of this approach for building a better future for all the people who live within Israel and the Palestinian Territories.”