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Anthony Bourdain laments ‘twisted and shallow’ depiction of Palestinians in US media

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This is inspiring. Last Sunday the Muslim Public Affairs Council gave a “voices of courage and conscience” in media award to CNN’s traveling chef Anthony Bourdain for the great show he did on food in Palestine last year for his series, “Parts Unknown.”

The Institute for Middle East Understanding posted the video above of Bourdain accepting the award and thanking the Muslim Public Affairs Council “from the bottom of my heart.”

“There was very little courage involved” in producing the show, he says. Then:

I was enormously grateful for the response from Palestinians in particular for doing what seemed to me an ordinary thing, something we do all the time: show regular people doing everyday things, cooking and enjoying meals, playing with their children, talking about their lives, their hopes and dreams.

It is a measure I guess of how twisted and shallow our depiction of a people is that these images come as a shock to so many. The world has visited many terrible things on the Palestinian people, none more shameful than robbing them of their basic humanity.

People are not statistics. That is all we attempted to show. A small, pathetically small step towards understanding.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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27 Responses

  1. just on May 22, 2014, 10:44 am


  2. seafoid on May 22, 2014, 10:46 am

    Prince Charles of England is also supportive of the Palestinians

    ” Prince Charles, who welcomed George Bush to Britain last night, has not been to the US for the last six years on the advice of the Foreign Office, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
    It emerged last night that the Prince of Wales has strong pro-Palestinian views and is privately critical of US policy in the Middle East conflict. ”

    Such a sad reflection on the grip the bots have on DC.

    • lysias on May 22, 2014, 3:02 pm

      The Foreign Office is afraid of what the consequences would be if Prince Charles voiced his views in the U.S.?

      Back in 2008 or so, I was at a reception in the UK embassy in Washington where the guest of honor was a Labour MP who was one of the party’s chief setters of educational policy. (I was attending as a former Marshall Scholar — the Foreign Office wanted to persuade the guest to support the continued existence of Marshall Scholarships.) Shortly before the reception ended, I happened to overhear the British Ambassador arranging with the guest of honor for their both attending the AIPAC meeting which was then happening in D.C.

      • MHughes976 on May 22, 2014, 4:16 pm

        HRH has got into trouble for disparaging remarks about Putin!

  3. marc b. on May 22, 2014, 10:46 am

    good for him. I was critical of some of his wishy-washy ‘reporting’ from Lebanon, but this is unequivocal.

    • Walid on May 22, 2014, 2:13 pm

      “… his wishy-washy ‘reporting…”

      Actually not too bad, marc, considering that he probably had no clue that the war had been called up by the US, that the F16s used were supplied for free by the US along with the free fuel and the free munitions along with the defective and stale dated 3 million cluster bombs also supplied for free by the US. Had he known that, he would have been less flattering about the US Marines that gave him a lift to Limassol, which ended up being a worst nightmare than what he had let behind in Beirut.

      • just on May 22, 2014, 2:19 pm

        Agreed, Walid.

      • marc b. on May 22, 2014, 2:25 pm

        i seem to recall that he was condescendingly dismissive of some of the ‘conspiracy’ culture in Lebanon when he first made a return trip after the war. (I could be wrong. I was wrong once before. it was a terrible experience.) in any event, he’s spot on here. there is a learning curve. for some of us, it takes a bit longer to pull our head out of our *ss and see the light.

      • Kay24 on May 22, 2014, 2:36 pm

        Very interesting. I must admit I did not realize the role the US played in Israel’s crimes in Lebanon too. I was disgusted by the cluster bombs dropped in civilians areas, but did not realize US taxpayers were gifting it to a brutal and dangerous government.

  4. pabelmont on May 22, 2014, 11:01 am

    Charles, PoW, is kept out of the USA because he is “privately” (but not entirely privately) pro-Palestinian? The PoW is a sort of POW? And for believing what the British Jewish Board of Deputies said they believe: that all mankind are made in God’s image and therefore deserving of being well treated (human rights for all)(even Palestinians).

    Well, it is high time that a lot of folks, especially many Americans and Israelis, were prudently keeping away from travel to a lot of places.

  5. Kay24 on May 22, 2014, 11:04 am

    I saw this video this morning, and it made me feel good. It takes chutzpah for someone like Anthony Bourdain, to risk the wrath of his bosses, and make such a statement, something that the others with no spine, dare not do.
    AB should know what he is talking about. He was in Lebanon when once again, Israel attacked it’s neighbors, including bombing in civilian areas, condemned by the UN.
    I guess being in Lebanon then, he had first hand experience, of the brutality shown by the IDF, and the disregard for lives not of their own. My family has always liked to watch his shows, and now I like him even more!
    Now I watch and wait (not holding my breath) to see which BRAVE American journalist will cover the breakdown of peace talks, speak the truth, refer to the insults John Kerry received for his mention of the A word, and even refer to the world outrage for the killing of Palestinian kids, most of all, I would like to see the American people be told that our intelligence officers have warned Congress to NOT give Israel open visa status, for the spying, espionage, and crimes committed by their citizens, and if they are okay with it. Tick, tock…

  6. Stateless American on May 22, 2014, 11:08 am

    Bourdain was in Beirut for his Travel Channel show “No Reservations” in 2006 when the Israelis started bombing. He and his crew were holed up in a hotel before being evacuated by the Marines. I’m sure that experience affected him. It was an incredible episode. There’s a short clip of the show on the Travel Channel website:
    It doesn’t, however, include his closing words about evil.

  7. Kay24 on May 22, 2014, 11:35 am

    I would call this ” chickens coming home to roost”, EU to boycott poultry and eggs from illegal settlements. Some people are not going to like this, and perhaps might start clucking that it yet another form of anti-semitism.

    • just on May 22, 2014, 11:40 am

      It’s a beautiful thing. Keep going, EU.

      Hopefully the US will get tired of ending up with egg (and worse) on its face, and do something (anything) right.

      Even chickens have settler ‘rights’…ugh.

  8. Cliff on May 22, 2014, 1:51 pm

    Loved him and his show before the Palestine episode. This is great news.

  9. Chu on May 22, 2014, 1:56 pm

    Behind the bravado there really is someone sincere and modest. Shocking. :D
    Thank you Anthony for being real.

  10. Ellen on May 22, 2014, 3:06 pm

    Bourdain is more than a Mensch. His words were powerful and I’d love to see this on his show. Sort of as a collective review of viewer responses to various episodes. In that format it might slip through the Zio Zenzur wall.

    Btw, he is very popular among young adult viewers in their 20s and 3os. The most important demographic for popular media.

  11. jon s on May 22, 2014, 4:30 pm

    Time to recall his trip to Israel / Palestine:

  12. James Canning on May 22, 2014, 7:25 pm

    The show from Palestine was very fine and Bourdain deserves this award. Bravo.

  13. RoHa on May 22, 2014, 8:06 pm

    Don’t travel on small planes, Anthony.

  14. Citizen on May 22, 2014, 8:31 pm

    LOVE Bourdain and all his shows. The mainstream media didn’t cover his show when it went to Israel/Palestine. He’s part Jewish, you know, right? He’s, even more so, all American! A humanist if there ever was one.

    • Jake on May 23, 2014, 11:31 am

      Not to be argumentative but the episode aired on CNN. That’s the mainstream.

  15. ritzl on May 22, 2014, 8:52 pm

    That was a great show. Well deserved award.

    It strikes me that when simple humility and common sense become the stuff of courageous and profound acts, as Bourdain’s acceptance speech is, the world is poise on the brink of major change (at least on this issue).

    I’m probably not saying that very well, but it seems that the rarely heard, “everyman” sensibility that Bourdain expressed can only resonate broadly and deeply given a little exposure. Contrary to the artificial and coercive Israeli counter-narrative, this seems downright organic, if not a natural first impression. Tough to fight that for long because nature always finds a way to overcome.

  16. Walker on May 23, 2014, 10:25 am

    Speaking of the media, there is today a vivid contrast between the NY Times’ reporting on bias in Spain vs bias in Israel.

    Today’s Times features the following headine: Fans in Spain Reveal Their Prejudices, and Social Media Fuels the Hostilities. It begins:

    MADRID — Spain’s sports fans have given Europe a version of the Donald Sterling racism scandal roiling America. While prejudice in sports is nothing new in Spain, a spate of racist and anti-Semitic abuses has set off a round of chagrin and soul-searching — and even a government clampdown — that has raised broad questions about why such behavior seems so hard to combat. . .

    It includes this acute observation from a Spanish sociologist:

    Racism or anti-Semitism . . . is “never a problem in their daily life, so that explains why such officials don’t take adequate measures and are so far from what was done in the N.B.A.”

    Three days ago the Times published an article by Isabel Kerschner entitled As Pope’s Visit Nears, Hate Crimes a Concern in Israel. Signal excerpts from this article include “The Israeli authorities are working to contain the vandalism, but say it is impossible to prevent every provocation.”, and the following quote from an an anonymous Israeli security official: “In a democratic country I don’t think it is possible to wipe out the mind-set of people”. He goes on to characterize (reporter’s paraphrase) “puncturing of tires and offensive graffiti as a form of terrorism because it was intended to deter the government from carrying out its policies”. (Emphasis added).

    In the article on Spain, the headline frames bigoted acts as something Spaniards commit, while the headline on Israel presents price tag attacks, which are far more serious than the bad language cited in the article on Spain, as events that just happen to take place in Israel.

    The Spanish article presents research statistics about the prevalence of bias in Spain, the Israeli article does not. The latter does describe without comment some of interactions between price-tag vandals and Israeli authorities, including the following, which is typical:

    Four residents of Yitzhar were arrested in connection with the Umm al-Fahm attack, after the car used by the perpetrators was captured on footage from a security camera. But they refused to answer questions and in the absence of conclusive evidence, all have since been released.

    Unlike in the article about Spain, nowhere does Kershner put the story in its proper context of strong Israeli bias and official discrimination against Palestinians. Nor does she explicitly point out that though Israeli authorities say much about their opposition to price tag attacks, in effect they have done very little.

    There could not be a more vivid example than these two stories of the different treatment the Times accords Israelis and, for that matter, Jews, versus its treatment of others.

  17. charlesfrith on May 23, 2014, 1:01 pm

    Roger Waters, Danny Glover and now Anthony Bourdain.

    We shall remember those who stepped up first.

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