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Note to Rudoren: Palestinians love their children and want them to live just like the rest of us

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Palestinians love their children and want them to live just like the rest of us.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I feel it’s necessary following a New York Times piece by Jodi Rudoren critiquing the funeral held for members of the Dalou family killed in a single Israeli airstrike on Gaza, four of who were small children between the ages of one and six. Rudoren is the New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief. While I have mad respect for all of the journalists risking their lives to report from Gaza while bombs are falling, her piece is totally unacceptable and I’m utterly shocked that her editors at the Times allowed it to be published.

From beginning to end, the piece it’s packed with racially loaded buzzwords that reflect common negative stereotypes westerners hold about arabs and muslims. The trouble begins in the opening sentence, which includes quite a view racialized buzzwords:

Sweat streamed through the beards of three men clutching the body of 7-year-old Jamal Dalu as they raced through the streets toward his final resting place here amid bursts from assault rifles fired into the air and shouts of “God is great.”

This immediately paints a picture of bearded, Islamic fundamentalists. You know, the people the media loves to show us setting fire to effigies of US presidents and American flags with AK-47 strapped across their shoulders as they chant, “Death to America.” The reason I know I’m not over reacting is because I’m an arab deeply aware of these dangerous stereotypes, yet that opening sentence still elicited those images in my mind, so I imagine it was the same for readers far less aware than me. So already, the western reader’s ability to empathize with Palestinians is compromised. The racial undertones continue in the second paragraph:

There were few if any visible tears at the intense, chaotic, lengthy funeral on Monday of Jamal and seven relatives, among 12 people killed the day before in the single deadliest attack since the latest hostilities between Israel and the Gaza Strip began Wednesday after months of Palestinian militant rocket fire into Israel. Instead, there were fingers jabbing the air to signal “Allah is the only one,” defiant chants about resistance and calls for revenge, flags in the signature green of Hamas and the white of its Al Qassam Brigades.

The message here is that Palestinians don’t cry even when 12 people are killed. Instead, Rudoren explains, they vie for revenge while praising the evil terrorists (Hamas) and their evil terrorist God. Nevermind that the dozen civilians who were killed had absolutely no affiliation with Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any other militant group. Still, sandwiched in between all of this is the false though frequently repeated notion that Palestinians started this round of bombardment with “months of Palestinian rocket fire into Israel,” a claim that’s been overwhelmingly disproven.

Despite the focus being a funeral, we don’t even learn details about the victims until the eighth paragraph, preceded first by the unchallenged claims of an IDF spokeswomen justifying the attack and inflammatory rhetoric by Hamas officials unrelated to the victims.  It’s not until the tenth paragraph that Rudoren even quotes a relative of the victims. This is because the true theme of the article is the inappropriate way Palestinians mourn their dead:

At the destroyed Dalu family home, a man climbed atop the pile of rubble where a dozen photographers had positioned themselves and hoisted the body of one of the four dead children into the air several times, as though a totem. At the mosque, the eulogy was disrupted by the sound of missiles launched toward Israel from nearby…Much of the militant pageantry most likely was meant as a message for the news media, and thus the world, given how the Dalus had instantly become the face of the Palestinian cause.

Rudoren’s description would have you believe that Palestinians view their dead children as nothing more than photo-ops, a chance to gain sympathy from the west. She even refers to the funeral as “militant pageantry,” which she echoed in a Facebook post, writing,  ”I have not been to a lot — OK, any – Hamas funerals before.”

She proceeds to quote Hamas officials and mourners calling for revenge, as though that’s an unnatural response to a massacre, especially since westerners, particularly Americans, have a penchant for vengeance too, arguably more so than Palestinians. When 3,000 Americans were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we reacted by attacking not one, but two countries, one of which (Iraq) had no connection to the attacks whatsoever. Over a decade later, we are still bombing countries (Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Philippines this year alone) to avenge the deaths of those 3,000 Americans. In this context, it’s almost laughable that American journalists from publications that cheer-led these attacks have the audacity to scold Palestinians for seeking vengeance.

Then comes the most deeply offensive part all:

But the tone, far more fundamentalist than funereal, was also a potent sign of the culture of martyrdom that pervades this place, and the numbness that many here have developed to death and destruction after years of cross-border conflict.

Many of them aspire to what they see as martyrdom in the struggle for a Palestinian state.

This is a common accusation among the pro-Israel crowd who like to say that Palestinians have a desire for death and that parents are proud when their children are blown to bits while fighting Israel. Israeli Jews on the other hand love their children and respect the sanctity of life. Later, Rudoren doubled down on her portrayal of Palestinians on Facebook, writing:

“…while death and destruction is far more severe in Gaza than in Israel, it seems like Israelis are almost more traumatized. The Gazans have a deep culture of resistance and aspiration to martyrdom, they’re used to it from Cast Lead and other conflicts, and they have such limited lives than in many ways they have less to lose…I’ve been surprised that when I talk to people who just lost a relative, or who are gathering belongings from a bombed-out house, they seem a bit ho-hum.”

When challenged by Philip Weiss and others about her troubling comments, Rudoren did not apologize for her remarks, but rather for bad word choice.

While her reporting and subsequent comments aren’t surprising given her clear attachment to Israel, I still have a hard time comprehending how someone can see the destruction and suffering in Gaza first hand and still hold such deeply bigoted views.

For starters, the idea that muslims and arabs “aspire to martyrdom” is nonsense. For people who are struggling against occupiers, colonizers or any great abusive power, there is indeed a sentiment their death is not in vein because they’ve sacrificed their life to free their people. As any quick look at history will show, this is far from unique to Palestinians and extends to those who fought the American revolution, blacks who resisted slavery, Native Americans who fought against European colonizers and the list goes on. As for calling dead Palestinian children “martyrs”, that’s simply a way to cope with the death of a loved one, or in Gaza, loved ones. We do it in the west too when we say, “it was God’s will”  or “it’s all a part of God’s plan.”

Palestinians love their children and want them to live just like the rest of us. Why is that so hard to see?

This post originally appeared on Rania Khalek’s blog Dispatches from the Underclass.

Rania Khalek
About Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek is a Lebanese-american independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized. Follow her on twitter @RaniaKhalek.

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17 Responses

  1. seafoid
    seafoid on November 21, 2012, 5:49 pm

    Hilton Als wrote a fabulous prologue headed “GWTW” in the lynching book “without Sanctuary” and in it he observes “these pictures are documents of America’s obsession with niggers, both black and white”.

    And Zionists are obsessed with Palestinian niggers, especially Gaza niggers.

  2. just
    just on November 21, 2012, 6:45 pm

    I am astonished that the West misuses the word “martyr” to derisively describe a person fighting against an oppressor in many cases, being the aggressor in many, and children and innocents in others.

    I am also weary of the continual citation on many of these boards with Meir’s quote:

    “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”

    It was cleverly said by a shrewd Zionist and kibbutznik, and remains brutal and deliberately prejudicial, imho.

    It now dishonors the dead and mourning, and diminishes the love between mother, father, and child that is innate to all human beings.

    It’s a rancid form of dehumanization.

    Thank you Rania.

  3. Ellen
    Ellen on November 21, 2012, 6:47 pm

    Very well written and expressed comcerning Rudoren’s “reporting.”

    Not to rub it it, but here goes. Her writing and the mentality of it is really so similar to a Julius Streicher. Where the “other” is compared to something not human, displays strange behavior, primitive emotions, etc.

    This is the propaganda of dehumanization, which leads to we-know-what.

    And what is really frightening is that neither she nor her defenders nor employer — the paper of record — recognize it. What does this tell us?

    • AhVee
      AhVee on November 21, 2012, 8:42 pm

      “And what is really frightening is that neither she nor her defenders nor employer — the paper of record — recognize it.”

      It’s not about what’s happening, it’s who it’s happening to. If the zios can convince us that the Palestinians are indeed religious fanatics who care nothing about their own dead, and have the emotional depth and the moral polarity of a piece of toast, then they no longer need to find a way to conceal or defend what they’re doing to them. (“If they don’t care about their dead, why should we”?) It’s only one step short of likening them to vermin, something the Israeli’s have already done.

      Unfortunately, judging by the amount of idiots who post nonsense like “they staple their wives to fences to protect themselves, that’s all I need to know” in various message boards around the internet, they’re succeeding. After all, if you can manage to evoke negative emotional responses, who needs facts, proof or anything else.

      It’s the kind of wash I’d expect a settler rag like Arutz Sheva to put up online in the “impartial observations by totally impartial people” section, it lacks the intelligence, analytic qualities and pretty much everything else to make it into the NYT. This isn’t journalism, it’s something Goebbels would have been proud of.

  4. Avi_G.
    Avi_G. on November 21, 2012, 6:58 pm

    Everyone seems to think that this is all a coincidence, a single journalist’s faux pas. But, what about other journalists who broadcasted and printed similar canards as Rudoren.

    I still think there is a concerted Israeli effort to pressure media into promulgating such stereotypes.

    Israeli Hasbara liks to alternate between They Hate Israel More Than They Love Their Own Children to Human Shields to They Celebrate Martyrdom.

    Why hasn’t this been addressed on Mondoweiss?

    • seafoid
      seafoid on November 22, 2012, 3:53 am

      I think it’s systematic. You can’t have media obedience without discipline and that means stereotyping Palestinians. It’s lazy but it works.

      The problem for the system is Internet 2.0. If Rudoren kept her mouth shut and stuck to print nobody would know how she really felt. But the need for attention is powerful.

      Once you are explaining then you have lost the argument.

  5. Talkback
    Talkback on November 21, 2012, 7:11 pm

    “Palestinians love their children and want them to live just like the rest of us. Why is that so hard to see?”

    Just the usual Zionist perpetrator-victim-reversal. Rudoren wants to suggest that Palestinian childrens get killed, because it is not Israel which is inhumane enough to approve it, but Palestinians are. And Israel is the victim, because they are forced to do it. Golda Meir invented this pathological Hasbara.

  6. Dagon
    Dagon on November 21, 2012, 9:27 pm

    Yesterday,on Piers Morgan’s show the sick and dispicable Dershowitz claimed that hamas’s stratigy was to get more and more children killed.That’s their goal.He termed it a ‘double war crime’.how did this monster get his job at harvard.ok ,i should know.

    • just
      just on November 21, 2012, 10:37 pm

      I could barely stomach watching and listening to him, Dagon, as he was pretending to be concerned about all of the children of the world.

    • AhVee
      AhVee on November 21, 2012, 10:38 pm

      You know, even IF all those wild claims of immorality, moral corruption and religious zealotry on the part of the Palestinians were true (here’s a hint, they largely aren’t), WHY the hell are people discussing this at all in the face of everything that’s happened in the past 80 years?? Just the fact that this is up for discussion at all to the extent of blotting out everythign else shows the full extent of the zionist domination of I/P discourse.

      People should be discussing
      1.) The events that lead up to the promising of land to the Jews by people who had no right to give it away.
      2.) The eviction of hundreds of thousands from their home
      3.) To what extent Israel qualifies as a democracy with its current laws / “moral police” system
      4.) How these injustices can be corrected (protip: quickest way to stop Palestinian terror on civilians)
      5.) Discussions taking into consideration that maybe, just maybe the above has more to do with what Palestinian terror there is than:

      What people are discussing:
      1.) If or not Mr. and Mrs. Palestinian mommy and daddy lubb their child enough
      2.) Who provoked whom into the latest bombing spree
      4.) The latest home-brew rocket to be intercepted on Israeli soil
      5.) Lots and lots of discussion over Islam as a religion and how much it influences Hamas-terror (you know, because Christians and Jews would never, ever fight back if what happened to the Palestinians had happened to them, oh no. Ten to one they’d actually be ENCOURAGED to fight back and be fed weapons by the west faster than a junkie pops pills)

      THAT is what’s bothering me most. Myopic BS and peripheral fluff as well as one sidetrack after another melds together into one large smokescreen to keep people talking about everything but what’s actually relevant, anything to keep people from stepping back and seeing the large picture, anything to keep people from coming up with the ludicrous notion that just maybe, giving the Palestinians actual justice may help alleviate the terror, anything to keep on blaming religion on terror thus creating the implication that peace and justice “wouldn’t solve anything anyway”.
      And hordes of people are buying into this BS, both liberal and conservative, progressive or otherwise. It’s maddening. Isn’t anyone partial to actually LEARNING HISTORY anymore, and putting injustice into fair context??

      • just
        just on November 22, 2012, 8:55 am

        Very well said.

        The larger picture has been obscured for a long, long time.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka on November 22, 2012, 10:03 am

      Typical blood libel. Nazis like the Dersh-bag should be run out of town on a rail. But America is no less corrupt than is israel, so sores like this guy fester.

  7. W.Jones
    W.Jones on November 21, 2012, 10:03 pm

    I agree, Rania. The New York Times’ article’s title is: “Hoisting Dead Children, Gazans Mourn Family Killed by Israeli Strike”. This reminds me of the nationalistic claim that Palestinians don’t care about their children, because the title emphasizes displaying a corpse (hoisting) in a way considered very disrespectful in the minds of the western readers. The image of a “hoisted” corpse appears as a repelling one.

    Another line that caught my eye reading it was: “the latest hostilities between Israel and the Gaza Strip began Wednesday after months of Palestinian militant rocket fire into Israel.” Being posted in Gaza, the journalist would know that this is a big oversimplification. Hamas had a ceasefire that was broken when the IDF assassinated a Hamas leader recently. Attacks had been going both ways, not just one way, as I understand it.

  8. Betsy
    Betsy on November 22, 2012, 10:04 am

    If one googles Jodi Rudoren, one gets a strange spectrum:

    on one hand, bizarre articles (from Israel, pro-Israel sources) talking about the anti-Israeli bias of the NYTimes. (for links, see

    on the other hand, Shmuel Rosner, in 2/12, of Jewish Journal, talking about her ‘rookie mistake’ of a positive tweet about Beinart’s THE CRISIS OF ZIONISM which means she’s already shown her anti-Israel bias and will never be able to get the interviews she needs with Israeli govt officials to be a good NYT reporter. Hence she’s “toast”

    on the other hand (of Kali the many-handed goddess of tough love justice), we find traces of Rudoren’s earlier journalism — as NYT reporter on NYC education — her excited blog about being class parent in Brooklyn school “It’s Me! The Class Parent!”

    and then, you get ‘actual’ footage of the funeral which she describes as ‘inhuman’ but the ‘actual’ photos are contextualized with shots of people’s reactions before the funeral & around it — which show terrible faces of unbearable grief & suffering. How anyone can see a “ho-hum” reaction here, is beyond my ken

    and, then, you get her husband, two days ago, on NYT blog my first reaction was that his piece reeked of the stench of self-serving damage control. He proffers ‘charming’ stories of his children leaning from the car windows, waving & saying “Shalom” — with the plea for everyone to stop hating (no mention of the fact that they seem to be driving around in a hyper-segregated ethnic bubble). My reaction was that this was, rhetorically, like they were “hoisting” up their children to send a message about how ‘human’ they are as a couple, as a family — a surreal mirror image to her icy-cold portrait of the al Dalu family funeral “hoisting dead children”. It seems like the ploy of bringing on the political candidate’s wife to talk about their first date, as a way to ‘humanize’ him. To (rhetorically) hoist their sweet, loving humanity — in contrast.

    Dude. You have no more humanized your family, than, the community around the devastated al Dalu family ‘actually’ dehumanized themselves in front of the intrusive, dehumanized glare of NYT cameras (knowing that they were on a world stage, after so many years of oblivion).

    Both Gary & Jodi Rudoren seem to think they can deflect criticism by projecting their warm everydayness, and parading their bubbly informality & naivete — to disarm all of us & stop the criticism.

    What was it James Baldwin said about the clueless whites bumbling into scenes of great & racialized tragedy, as if they didn’t have to first try to learn something about what’s going on & to listen? Something about “criminal innocence”? I ran off to find my copy of James Baldwin, but my husband was already huddled over it & won’t share (he’s on the beat of quite another world disaster — why is Baldwin still so tragically relevant on so many fronts?). OK, I’ll go look for my Lauren Berlant on SENTIMENTALITY IN AMERICAN CULTURE & “the intimate public” . Dude, wearing your “innocence” and your familyness & your “ignorance” & ‘humanness’ is not going to take the responsibility off your shoulders to work thro the great political & justice challenges of the place in which you ‘actually’ live & the cumulative tragedies of history.

    These people sound like well-meaning but pampered 14 year olds on their first big trip — but they seem to have already produced grade school children.

    One feels sorry for them, but, golly, gee whiz…they are described as writers, but do the read? Why don’t we hear them quoting the great writers from the region, using words & concepts from diverse languages & cultures? Why doesn’t the NYT have Bureau Chiefs who live in Palestine for extended periods of time & can speak Arabic??

    Dude. If all that’s too foreign, James Baldwin could really help. If a whole book is too much, just try a mantra-like repetition of these four words — The. Fire. Next. Time

    • Inanna
      Inanna on November 23, 2012, 1:09 am

      Thanks Betsy great comment.

    • seafoid
      seafoid on November 23, 2012, 8:02 am

      “Why doesn’t the NYT have Bureau Chiefs who live in Palestine for extended periods of time & can speak Arabic??”

      Why did Congress give Netanyahu 29 standing ovations? Because that is the way the system is calibrated .

      Rudoren revealed via FB that behind the incredibly impressive curtain of the Wizard of Oz there are these small minded midget bigots pulling strings.

  9. Emma
    Emma on November 25, 2012, 6:43 am

    Lifting the body of a dead child towards the sky strikes me as a spectacularly dramatic expression of emotion.

    And for what it’s worth — no doubt most here know this: Palestinians refer to anyone who is killed by the Israelis in the struggle for justice, anyone of any age, nationality, or religion, as a martyr.

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