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Palestinian funerals are not ‘Militant Pageantry’

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 is packed with racially loaded buzzwords that reflect common negative stereotypes westerners hold about arabs and muslims. The trouble begins in the opening sentence:

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-47s 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. I imagine it was the same for readers far less aware than me. So already, the 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 bombardments with “months of Palestinian rocket fire into Israel,” a claim that’s been overwhelmingly disproven.

Despite the focus being on a funeral, we don’t 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 phot-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 that 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?

  1. Thanks very much for this poweful piece. There is so much prejudice in media coverage of Palestinians its useful to reality check it as often as possible. I run several projects about death and so was especially interested that you linked your points to a portrayal of a funeral. It seems to me that one of the key ways we paint Palestinians and Islamists as archetypal boogeymen is by characterise them as ‘death denyers’. By minimising their very real grief, or emphasising martyrdom our own latent fear of death is galvanised into dehumanising these people. This helps us to ignore their suffering and tolerate these atrocities. It is a deliberate control mechanism.
    Just my thoughts 🙂 Thanks again for the piece.

    November 21, 2012
  2. Her writing is disgusting, a lot of barely repressed hate. Its unbelievable this gets published..
    Palestinians are written about as if they are great apes being observed by a particularly cold and unsympathetic scientist. A doctor Mengele of monkeys.
    The cold rationality a cover for something far more hideous.

    Note the almost fetish she has towards oriental motifs a dead baby is a “totem” the beard is sweat streamed. The reaction at the funeral “ho hum”. Not vigorous enough for her tastes. I am sure if she see Palestinians mother waling its “theatrics”. A word incidentally Paula Broadwell of Petraeus fame used for an Afghan protesting the flattening of his village. There is no way Palestinians can get a ounce of empathy. They have a agenda. Shrewd manipulating . Their miserable surrounding “limited” lives have made them subhuman, beyond the pale.

    Its actually right from Julius Streicher play book. Strecher the Nazi propagandist who was hanged in Nuremberg went at great lengths to make the point that Jews are not worthy of empathy. They always have an agenda and will pretend and feign emotions to get their way.
    That is to lesser extent what NYT is aiming for.Once you start believing this about anyone cheering 120 plus butchered in an air raids comes naturally.

    On twitter she lets her guard down.
    So on hearing about two Palestinian kids being killed her tweet goes:
    “Checking report of 4 yr old twins killed up north….that feels a little close to home”
    Her empathy is short lived and relief barely concealed in her next tweet:
    “Turns out not twins but ages 3 & 2. Not that thats better, but we twin parents are a special tribe”
    God forbid the Palestinians ever have anything in common with her “special tribe”. Just think over it she just saw the corpses of a 3 yr old and a 2 yr old and that her reaction.
    These are the musing of a sociopath,

    Then her Palestinian fixer car barely avoids being blown to smithereens:
    A missile just hit a car driving behind the car NYT fixer was in in #Gaza. Driver of targeted car was killed, our people OK. TOO CLOSE.

    But she clarifies

    “Just learned that the car behind our car was Al Aqsa TV, marked, 2 employees killed”

    Note “Employees” NOT journalist. Its like she is clarifying her initial outrage was out of line, it was a car marked AL aqsa TV of course it was a target. And that is not just a slip. She double downs on it.She insist in her FB post that Pal don’t really follow the “Western Media Ethic” and finds Mike regev pov that Pal journalist arent really journalist but terrorist who should be killed to be “Understandable”.

    Then as Mondweiss pointed out is her post of “her first tear in Gaza” to be for her friend in Jerusalem Dianne Lithwick rather ridiculous unfounded anxiety.
    While being surrounded by utter death and destruction her vacation friends tribulation reduce her to tears. But for Palestinians she knows better then letting her guard down.

    Its not just Palestinian other infected by any sympathy are also suspect.
    So the when a Hasbarist poster Mark Jacobs objected to her quoting the Norwegian Doctor, Mads Gilbert on her characteristically banal piece on Shifa Hospital.

    Mark Jacobs ‏@rudoren Dr. Mads Gilbert is not a neutral observer. He has said 911 was justified and has staged events at Al Shifra in the past.

    Instead of telling him to STFU or even fact checking (the accusations of the staging are complete lies, even 911 accusation is out of context). She obliges.

    Jodi Rudoren ‏@rudoren @mr_markjacobs thats why i didnt quote his political comments.

    Mark Jacobs ‏@mr_markjacobs @rudoren Thank-you!

    So she was on the guard from the get go. Based on spurious unsubstantiated accusation she knew Dr Gilbert was not a trust worthy source.

    My feeling is that how she processes the entire world in binaries. Once you are in her “the other” list you are done..

    November 21, 2012
  3. Reblogged this on A Collective Consciousness and TJP Production.

    November 21, 2012
  4. wing #

    great article, Rania

    November 22, 2012
  5. Thank you for this critical analysis. Have you considered submitting your piece to The Guardian newspaper, for their “comment is free” section? They do publish a diversity of opinion and I think this article deserves wide exposure.

    Best Wishes from an independent journalist in Greece.

    November 22, 2012
    • Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

      November 22, 2012
  6. Bill #

    So when is the Gaza Pride Parade? When will men in cock socks be able to make out in front of thousands of people in Khan Yunis? Will my dear pagan friends be able to have a solstice festival in Beit Lahiya?

    November 23, 2012
  7. Bill #

    How much do the Palestinians love their children?

    November 23, 2012
  8. Bill #

    How much to they REALLY want their children to live?


    Host Saraa, a young girl: “Sanabel, what will you do for the sake of the Al-Aqsa Mosque? How will you sacrifice your soul for the sake of Al-Aqsa? What will you do?”

    Sanabel, young girl on phone: “I will shoot.”

    Farfour, a Mickey Mouse character in a tuxedo: “Sanabel, what should we do if we want to liberate…”

    Sanable: “We want to fight.”

    Farfour: “We got that. What else?”

    Saraa: “We want to…”

    Sanabel: “We will annihilate the Jews.”

    Saraa: “We are defending Al-Aqsa with our souls and our blood, aren’t we, Sanabel?”

    Sanabel: “I will commit martyrdom.”


    Farfour: “We’ve said more than once that becoming masters of the world requires the following: First, to be happy with our Arabic language, which once upon a time ruled this world.”

    Saraa: “Of course.”

    Farfour: “Second… or maybe that’s it?”

    Adult host: “Farfour, I heard you speaking in English.”

    Farfour: “Yes. How are you, Saraa? I hope to be good time.”

    Saraa: “What’s with you, Farfour? Why are talking this way? Didn’t we agree to speak in literary Arabic?”

    Farfour: “But Saraa, this is the language of the advanced world, the language of the world that understands and invents things, isn’t it?”

    Saraa: “No, Farfour, you are wrong, because you don’t know that the Muslims are the basis of civilization. If not for the Muslims, the world wouldn’t have gotten to where it is today.”


    Farfour: “My dear youngsters, we’re back. We always miss seeing you on your weekly program ‘The Pioneers of Tomorrow,’ in which we together are placing the cornerstone for the ruling of the world by an Islamic leadership.”


    Too many want their religion to live and conquer the world more than they want their children to live.

    November 23, 2012
  9. Every single piece of information from the dominant culture must be analyzed for bias, the narrator controls the discourse. The Hopis knew this, “The one who tells the stories rules the world.”

    November 23, 2012
  10. Sean Cunningham #

    So pleased to see that “Common Dreams” published this, Rania! 🙂

    November 23, 2012
  11. Hi there Im curious if I can use this post in one of my blogs if I link back to you? Thanks

    June 1, 2013

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