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Palestinian writer and activist Mohammed El-Kurd's speech at the UN


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Palestinian writer and activist Mohammed El-Kurd delivered a speech at the UN on Monday, blasting the "Israeli settler-colonial regime" for its occupation of Jerusalem

"Thank you for these groundbreaking speeches," came the acerbic start to El-Kurd's address. "I'm sure the occupation authorities are really concerned right now."

Speaking on the United Nations on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, El-Kurd described the day Israeli settlers took half of his home in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem. He was 11 years old at the time.

He said that the Israeli settlement expansion has not only affected his home village of Sheikh Jarrah but also daily life in Silwan, Eissawiya, and Masafer Yatta in the occupied city of Hebron.

"The UN has called this a war crime but I know this is theft," he explained.

"The battle over Sheikh Jarrah is not legal in its essence, it is political. It is part of the larger systematic essence to Israelise the entirety of Jerusalem, my native city. My family and my neighbours understand this, we know first hand that the Israeli judicial system is created by those who benefit endlessly from the Israeli settler-colonial regime."

Israelise is a term used to describe the erasure of indigenous Palestinian heritage and populations by Israel.

He spoke of how little faith Palestinians have in the justice system in the occupied territories, which he says is designed to protect Israeli settlers.

"As I speak to you, our lawyer is trying to convince a settler judge to rule against settlements. The word apartheid comes to mind, but saying there is an asymmetry in justice in the Israeli judicial system is an understatement. What we have on our hands is a colonialist ideologically driven system built by and for colonisers."

With their fearless and unfiltered words, Mohammed El-Kurd and his sister Muna have been credited with catalysing global uproar over Israel's violations of Palestinian rights, including expulsions in Sheikh Jarrah and the deadly Israeli aerial assault on Gaza earlier this year.

But after a summer of global solidarity, El-Kurd said his Jerusalemite community can feel the world return to its silence.

"This summer we took our struggle to the streets our efforts to resist this takeover were joined by Palestinians across Jerusalem and the world and what became known as the unity uprising. The situation rapidly escalated into attacks on besieged."

"The reality for Palestinians however has not changed. Our neighbourhood was put under a blockade for three months maintained by Israeli forces with continuing restrictions intended to suffocate the lives of the hundreds of Palestinians who lived there, and yet meanwhile armed Jewish settlers who have already occupied some of our homes roam freely on the streets no questions asked."

"On any given night, a dozen gun-wielding fanatics patrol my street with arrogant impunity. They are protected, even supported by the troops blockading our community," El-Kurd said.

He went on to say the root cause for the suffering in Jerusalem goes beyond land and judiciary and roots in Israeli settler colonialism.

"The reality that Palestinians across 70 years of zionist rule have experienced this vocabulary is not theoretical. It is evident in the attempts to throw us out of our homes so that settlers can occupy them with the backing of the regime whose forces and policies provide violent support for the transfer of one population to install another," he said.

"I do not care whom this terminology offends."

El-Kurd extended his solidarity to Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip which is suffering huge shortages of basic goods due to over a decade of a crippling siege by Israel.

He also acknowledged Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including his neighbour Murad, "an elementary school teacher who was robbed from his family and put into prison, slapped with trumped-up and fabricated charges only because he dared say no to ethnic cleansing".

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday the situation in the region "continues to pose a significant challenge to international peace and security".

The "persistent violations of the rights of Palestinians, along with the expansion of Israeli settlements, risk eroding the prospect of a two-state solution", he said.

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