SA’s past is Palestine’s present, says activist

Palestinian activist Muna El-Kurd, 23.

alestinian activist Muna El-Kurd, 23, urged the youth to stand up against oppression and injustice, when she spoke at the Ashley Kriel Hall in Salt River last week.

Ms El-Kurd was 12 when she and her twin brother, Mohammed El-Kurd, started documenting how Israeli settlers would forcibly occupy East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and try to evict Palestinian families from their homes – something that is still happening, she says.

The twins shared their videos and stories to the world in an online social-media campaign.

Ms El-Kurd and her brother were temporarily detained by the Israeli authorities in May this year.

Ms El-Kurd was joined at the Ashley Kriel Hall by Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Nkosi Mandla Mandela, former Western Cape High Court judge Siraj Desai, former president of the Muslim Judicial Council Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels and other prominent speakers.

Ms El-Kurd said: “I had a small role in the Palestinian movement, but it was my responsibility to do what I have done, which was fighting for my home and land. There are many other youth fighting in Palestine for the same cause, whether on social media or on the ground.

“At the moment, there are 500 people living under the threat of being removed from their houses in Sheikh Jarrah, just because there’s an Israeli group claiming that they own the land.”

Ms El-Kurd said South Africans had lived during the apartheid era what the Palestinians were living today; South Africa’s past was Palestine’s present.

“Young South African people also need to act more on the ground by organising events and finding different ways to protest against the Israeli occupation,” she said.

South Africans should push their government to cut ties with Israel, she said.

Nkosi Mandela said: “In honouring Muna, we honour the current heroic youth generation of the 70s, 80s and the 90s, who led our country to the freedom and democracy we enjoy today.”

Ms El-Kurd and her brother symbolised a new generation of youth who were fearless and resilient in the face of immense odds, he said, adding that the country would continue to mobilise the youth in support of a “free Palestine”.

He said: “To use Muna’s own words: ’We live in a new era where Palestinians can make themselves heard despite obstacles.’

“Muna’s voice has sent a strong message to the world, saying that Israel is an apartheid state. It is her voice and the voices of today’s generation that says fearlessly to the apartheid Israeli regime, that we will not be silenced and we will continue to campaign.”

Young people should use social media to raise awareness of what he said were crimes committed against humanity and Palestinian people. Youth across South Africa should also boycott the Miss Universe pageant being held in Israel, he said.

Mr Desai said: “Muna, her family and the Sheikh Jarrah citizens have displayed such immense courage to resist the Israeli evictions, and we salute their courage. What we fight for in District Six, we will fight for in Sheikh Jarrah.”

During the weekend, Ms El-Kurd also visited the Salt River murals, the District Six Museum, Islamia Auditorium, St George’s Cathedral and Bo-Kaap and she shared messages of solidarity with Cape Town.

Palestinian activist Muna El Kurd writes on a Salt River mural depicting the Palestinian struggle.