In a commentary focusing on food as a unifying element in the Middle East, (Could palates, rather than politics be the key to peace in the Middle East?, Aug. 13) ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Rachel Shabi couldn’t help but lament that ‘some countries’ in the region, for obtuse nationalist reasons, claim ownership of legumes that aren’t their own.
More often, we hear about the politics of Middle Eastern food in the context of nationalistic battles over ownership. Israel sparks fury with its ubiquitous postcards of falafel skewered with an Israeli flag and a strapline declaring the pitta-nestled chickpea balls to be their “national snack”. President Obama unwittingly picked that barely-covered scab when it was revealed that he’d be served falafel by the Israeli president on a recent regional trip.
The link provided by Shabi confirms that this is the offending postcard:
While questions remain as to where precisely in the Middle East the deep-fried round patties (made from ground chickpeas, fava beans or both) originated, as Shabi surely knows, nearly half of Israeli Jews are Mizrachi – descendants from Jewish communities in the Middle East. So, to suggest that Israelis are ‘colonizing’ the ubiquitous street food is not only petty, but ahistorical.
Oh, and if you think I’m reading too much into Shabi’s passage about Israeli ‘culinary incitement’, you should note that this isn’t a one-off for the CiF contributor when it comes to complaints about such Zionist theft:
Here’s the money quote from her post about a form of Israeli ‘fanaticism’ which evidently escapes the media’s radar:
it’s one thing to admire a neighbour’s cooking, quite another to name it your own national dish, as Israelis have done for hummus and that other Middle Eastern chickpea favourite, falafel.
Would you say it’s fair to conclude that when folks are truly driven to outrage by Israelis who promote falafel as their national dish it is a much greater commentary about the former than the latter?
- The intoxicated anti-Zionist rants of Rachel Shabi (cifwatch.com)
- The humble falafel is part of Jewish heritage, too! (Point of No Return)