Palestinians mourn activist celebrity Anthony Bourdain

By Shirin Zarqa- PNN/

Celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, was one of few Americans who was able to capture a piece of Palestinian life and bring it back for the world to see.  Unfortunately, Bourdain, 61 was found dead in his hotel room in France this past weekend, where he was filming an episode of his CNN television show, “Parts Unknown.”

Though he has passed, his work has forever changed the impression of Palestinians around the world. In 2013, the host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” opened the season of his television show with an episode he called, “Parts Unknown: Jerusalem, West Bankand Gaza,” where for one hour he captured an American audience and showed them the reality of Palestine.  While in Gaza City , Bourdain is seen with his host and author of “The Gaza Kitchen,” Laila El-Haddad, makinghomemade “maqloobeh.” Bourdain goes on a wild ride through Ramallah with race-car driver Betty Saadeh of “Speed Sisters.” He is seen visiting Al Rowwad Theatre in Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. Viewers got to experience Palestinian children playing, the naturally loud Palestinian tone of voice that is often mistaken for yelling, the insistence that the camera crew join them for dinner, all of the nuances of Palestinian culture.  He gave his viewing audience a taste of Palestinian cuisine and an education on Palestinian culture.

Bourdain did not shy away from exposing the daily oppression that Palestinians experience by experiencing it for himself.  Bourdain experienced the humility of checkpoints, the seclusion of the wall, the segregation of settlements, and the lack of basic humanity by the IDF. He ended the episode by saying,

“By the end of this hour, I’ll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, socialist, a fascist, CIA agent, and worse.”

But the impact of that episode left the viewing public speechless. Many Americans had never been exposed to the reality of Palestinian life.

In 2014, he won an award from the Muslim Public Affairs Council. In his acceptance speech, the power of his words again left us speechless by saying “The world has visited many terrible things on the Palestinian people, none more shameful than robbing them of their basic humanity,” which reached out to  almost 700,000 viewers.