Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Blog

By Emily Cooke
Summer Intern, 2014

Photo by Sachyn Mital. John Legend at the Citi Presents Evenings with Legends show on 29 January 2014 in New York.There is a certain eerie silence that obscures discussions of the Palestinian plight—a silence that only pads American perceptions of a region mired in bitter tension and consumed by ceaseless violence. This is not to say that Palestinian political pursuits are under recognized in Western media outlets. After all, news outlets are often eager to advertise episodes of violence like, for instance, the two Palestinian teens killed in a recent confrontation with Israeli security forces.

Make no mistake, these deadly skirmishes are tragedies that warrant media coverage to deliver some justice to the Palestinian families who suffer injustice every day. The most central question now, however, is what does present media coverage leave out? What stories are surrendered when they do not engender the controversy on which news outlets thrive? Ultimately, it is the experiences of the Sultan family in the Gaza Strip sharing a bowl of Maqluba, or of the young Palestinian who, like a multitude of others worldwide, ventures to school each morning.

There is nothing particularly remarkable about these stories themselves, but their impact could be, if only the ordinary experiences of Palestinians made headlines, emphasizing what is commonly overlooked—a shared humanity. American singer, John Legend, and culinary sensation, Anthony Bourdain, seem to identify this gaping hole in media coverage, and utilized their popular recognition to spur change.

In his commencement address at the University of Pennsylvania on May 19th, Legend addressed the difficulty, but also the necessity, of truly loving the seven billion people who inhabit the world. In this pursuit, Legend chose to conjure the image of an ordinary Palestinian child, an individual who should be seen, “not as a future security threat or demographic challenge, but as a future father, mother, and lover”.

Bourdain took his efforts a tad farther, and actually filmed an episode of his CNN show, Parts Unknown, in the West Bank and Gaza strip last September. For thirty televised minutes, Bourdain depicted ordinary people doing ordinary things—like the Sultan family preparing dinner, and a swarm of Palestinian children who, not unlike American children, enjoy simply riding their bikes. Bourdain was awarded the “Courage and Conscience Award” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council for recognizing what mainstream media often forgets or simply ignores. Bourdain’s short acceptance speech condemned the, “twisted and shallow” depiction of Palestinian’s that renders any coverage of their everyday lives as a shock to so many. Bourdain offered his documentary as a, “small step towards understanding”, and perhaps Legend’s call to, “let go of fear and see each other’s humanity” can be regarded as the second vital step.  

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