When Will Diaa Hadid Write About Polygamy In Palestinian Arab Society?

Aussie Dave wrote this morning about the New York Times’ coverage of the Hamas commander who was murdered because of the belief, whether true or not, that he was gay. When I read the same article, something entirely different jumped out at me:

Mr. Ishtiwi . . . is survived by two wives and three children. . . . In his next meeting with relatives, on March 1, Mr. Ishtiwi told his brother Hussam that he had been tortured since his fourth day in detention. Six weeks later, when his wives visited, they sneaked out a note, of which Human Rights Watch shared a photograph. “They nearly killed me,” it says. “I confessed to things I have never done in my life.”

His wives?!

Just how common is Big Love in Palestinian Arab society?

Just how common is Big Love in Palestinian Arab society?

It’s not the first time that I’ve noticed a casual reference to polygamy in Diaa Hadid‘s writing. In January Hadid caused a stir with some faulty reporting on evictions in Jerusalem. Her reporting was problematic enough that it warranted an editor’s note to discuss all of its mistakes. But there was another passage that seems to have gone largely unnoticed:

Nazira Maswadi’s new landlord is trying to kick her out based on a claim that her estranged husband, Tawfiq, the original lessee, is dead. “He’s not dead,” she insisted. “He has 10 children with me. If he died, they would have to bury him.”

Mr. Maswadi, reached by phone on Wednesday, confirmed he is alive, but acknowledged he now lives mostly with his third wife in the Shuafat refugee camp, which itself could threaten his family’s occupancy of the Old City apartment.

Ms. Maswadi’s husband, it is reported, is “estranged.” Not divorced. Yet the man has not one, but two other wives (at least!).

In both cases, Hadid seems oblivious of her own writing.

In November of 2014, the Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan recommended that the Times “strengthen the coverage of Palestinians. They are more than just victims, and their beliefs and governance deserve coverage and scrutiny. . . . What is Palestinian daily life like?”

Hadid appears to have been hired in response to this recommendation. Her reporting, however, raises, but does not answer, many question about polygamy in Palestinian Arab society. Is it common? Is it accepted? Is it legal? Hadid doesn’t tell us.

Al-Monitor, however, did report in March of 2015 that polygamy was “easy to find in all of Gaza’s social strata, be they rich, poor or even middle class,” and that “according to the Palestinian personal status law, a man may marry up to four women.” (The link they use as a citation for the law is no longer working.) Al-Monitor’s entire report is well-worth reading. The Times should provide at least a brief discussion of these issues, instead of mentioning polygamy in passing as if it were a totally normal occurrence.



A Zionist in exile, Mirabelle has, in past lives, been a lawyer, a skier, and a chef. Outside of Israel, her favorite place in the world is Sun Valley, Idaho.

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