Palestinian writer Mohammed El-Kurd says Western reaction to Israel’s assault on Gaza has once again highlighted the double standard when it comes to how Israeli and Palestinian lives are valued. Israel is bombarding the densely populated coastal territory in retaliation for Saturday’s Hamas attack on southern Israel, as well as tightening the existing siege even further. Israeli officials have vowed to wipe out Hamas despite warnings of massive civilian casualties inside Gaza. “One wonders how much bloodshed, how much Palestinian death is necessary for people to realize that violence begets violence and that the occupation and the colonization of Palestine, the blockade of the Gaza Strip needs to end for all of this violence to end.” El-Kurd also accuses Israeli officials and Western media outlets of using Islamophobic tropes by spreading as-yet-unverified claims of sexual violence and beheadings by Hamas fighters, while downplaying the documented death and devastation being inflicted on Gaza residents.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We’re joined now by Mohammed El-Kurd, Palestinian journalist, poet, writer, correspondent for The Nation, culture editor at Mondoweiss, born and raised in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Mohammed, can you comment, overall, on this situation right now and what you think needs to happen?
MOHAMMED EL-KURD: I honestly —
AMY GOODMAN: Mohammed — Mohammed, you’re muted. We cannot hear you.
MOHAMMED EL-KURD: I think —can you hear me now?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, we can.
MOHAMMED EL-KURD: I honestly do not know what to tell you. It feels to me as though we are living in the very first few days of an unfolding genocide. I mean, not only are Israeli politicians and journalists alike and global forces calling for the annihilation of the Gaza Strip, for bombing it into the Stone Ages, declaring that they are interested in inflicting damage and not really precision, but these images that we are — these images that we are seeing coming outside of the Gaza Strip are so harrowing and devastating that one wonders — one wonders how much bloodshed, how much Palestinian death is necessary for people to realize that violence begets violence and that the occupation and the colonization of Palestine, the blockade of the Gaza Strip needs to end for all of this violence to end.
I mean, I am incredibly angered that word-of-mouth, unverified reports of, quote-unquote, “rape and decapitation,” which obviously draw on Islamophobic tropes, have garnered more and more political and global outrage than those very images, than a video of a nurse announcing and screaming in distress that her husband has been killed in an Israeli airstrike. And, you know, the PR strategy of the Israeli regime throughout all of this has been to invoke those Islamophobic sentiments, like calling it Israel’s — quote-unquote, “Israel’s 9/11.” And media outlets and journalists who have taken on this framing without any questioning not only work to equate the violence of a besieged, politically isolated group like Hamas with the violence of al-Qaeda and ISIS and so on, but they are also doing the dirty work for Israelis. They are preemptively justifying the genocide of hundreds and thousands of Palestinians. They are justifying a brutal onslaught that is about to come globally. And that should be alarming.
I mean, we have seen this unfold during 9/11. We have seen this unfold in history, the utilization of Islamophobia, the dehumanization, the constant dehumanizations of Palestinians, the refusal to see them as human beings who have the right to resist and to defend themselves and to be angry and to want the right to self-determination and to not want to live in siege anymore. All of this refusal to see all of this is contributing, is contributing to this oncoming onslaught, where Israeli politicians can just call Palestinians “human animals,” can just say that they are not really concerned with saving anyone, can threaten to bomb aid envoys coming in from Egypt. This should be concerning to everybody around the world. It is terrifying times we are living in.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this whole issue [inaudible] hostage situation, as well. Hamas has reported that in one of the bombing attacks, some of the hostages were killed along with those Hamas militants who were guarding them. What do you think the Israeli government posture will continue to be on this issue of the hostages?
MOHAMMED EL-KURD: I mean, so far Hamas has said that they are willing to release all of the female detainees, if Israel is going to release the 36 Palestinian female prisoners currently lingering in Israeli prisons, but the Israeli government has refused to negotiate. In fact, Israeli ministers, like Smotrich, have said that they could not care less about the hostages, and their goal is to inflict as much damage as possible on the besieged Gaza Strip.
And I also want us to get one thing correctly: Holding 2 million people under blockade is a very serious hostage situation. This is what we’re dealing with, the fact that the Israeli regime has been holding Palestinians in Gaza as hostages to exert political pressure on groups like Hamas. The fact that a quarter, 25%, of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prison are held without detention — are held without trial or charges is a hostage situation. The fact that even in death, Palestinian corpses are held in mortuary chambers to be used as bargaining chips is a hostage situation. But time and time again, we are shown by the world its double standards. We are told that the only violence that matters is the violence inflicted upon Israelis, and the only lives that matter are the lives of Israelis. Palestinians have been living as hostages for the past 16 years in this blockade. That must, must end. And it is incumbent upon us as journalists to make this context clear.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds, Mohammed El-Kurd. You’ve been in the United States a lot. Of course, you live in Sheikh Jarrah. President Biden is about to give an address. What do you want to hear him say?
MOHAMMED EL-KURD: Well, I know what he is going to say about his biggest, biggest ally in the region. But I also know that my family and my neighborhood have experienced settlers attacks, who — they throw Molotov cocktails overnight. I know that settler violence has been intensifying both in the Old City of Jerusalem and all around the occupied West Bank and even in 1948 territories. And I know that lip service from Biden is not going to address it. But the world needs to know that as long as the occupation persists, as long as the apartheid system persists, resistance to it is going to persist. It is not a difficult equation to understand. People deserve dignity and freedom and to live safely in their homes.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohammed El-Kurd, I want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian journalist, writer, correspondent for The Nation, culture editor at Mondoweiss.