From The Nation
Anthony Bourdain took his Emmy Award-winning CNN series Parts Unknown to places where most media do not go. He was, ostensibly, telling tales about the preparation and eating of food. But Bourdain's deepest fascination was with diverse cultures and the human experience reflected in them. That involvement was professional, and personal, and political.
He said he was a storyteller, not a journalist. But the globetrotting chef was invariably a clearer commentator on geopolitics than the pundits who seem always to be conspiring against understandings of our shared humanity.
The chef and author, who has died at age 61, sought to expand those understandings. He did so by traveling to conflict zones and by inviting viewers to go with him to the markets, the kitchens, and the tables of families whose kindness and decency was rarely reflected in media coverage of countries that are at odds with themselves, with their neighbors and with the United States. He did this in Kurdistan, Congo, Libya, Myanmar, and, famously, Iran. But it was his visit to Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem in 2013 that brought his most powerful assessment of the challenges and the possibilities of the work he did.
"There's no hope, none, of ever talking about it without pissing somebody, if not everybody, off," he announced, as he introduced that Parts Unknown episode. "By the end of this hour I will be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an orientalist, socialist, fascist, CIA agent, and worse."
The hour of cable television that Bourdain presented was so honest and so respectful in its portrayal of Palestinians that the Muslim Public Affairs Council honored the host with its Voices of Courage and Conscience in Media award in 2014.