One of the most absurd fronts in an ongoing Arab/Palestinian war on Israel’s legitimacy is the fight about food. Israelis are accused of food imperialism, i.e. appropriating Palestinian foods and even of “cultural genocide.” For example, James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute, tweeted in 2017:
CAMERA’s Gilead Ini examined this rhetorical offensive in depth, exposing the falsity of the underlying accusations as well as the motive behind them, in his 2020 Commentary article. As he pointed out:
The delegitimization of Israeli food is a predictable outgrowth of a broader campaign to denigrate Israel itself and to deny the culture and humanity of its Jewish citizens….
…If you take a map and highlight locales where hummus has long been a staple, you’d end up with florescent yellow across Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and the Palestinian-ruled West Bank and Gaza; and also Jaffa, Tiberias, Abu Ghosh, Akko, and Daliyat al-Karmel—towns and cities in Israel. Try as some might to scrub it away, Israel remains on the map of the Middle East…
…But it will remain the case that Israel is on the map; that Israeli towns, like Palestinian ones, are celebrated for Levantine cuisine; that Israeli citizens, both Arab and Jewish, are weaned on that food; and that Jews, whether Ashkenazi or Mizrahi, are not strangers in the land of their forefathers.
The inane offensive over ownership of original recipes as part of a campaign against the Jewish state would not succeed without the aid and abetment of the mainstream media. And the New York Times is the latest to join in.
In “Preserving a Palestinian Identity in the Kitchen,” (online-Oct. 19; print-Oct. 20, 2022) New York Times contributor Aina J. Khan cites a Franco-Palestinian chef who created a cooking video series “aimed at reclaiming a cuisine that is part of a broader Arab tradition involving foods like hummus, falafel, tabbouleh, fattoush and shawarma that he felt was being co-opted by Israeli cooks.” She features and highlights his outlandish accusations:
“Food is being used to normalize the Israeli occupation by denying the origin of everything from hummus to falafel,” Mr. Kattan said. “The images of our grandmother’s hands working in the kitchen, rolling the vine leaves, dipping the bread of the mussakhan in oil.” He added, “These are images of beauty that are being stolen from us.”
That the food angle is just an excuse to expand on the greater theme of an illegitimately-created Jewish state is soon made clear by the article’s author. She writes:
Before 1948, when over 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes or fled as the state of Israel was created, a mass displacement Palestinians call the nakba or “catastrophe,” about three-quarters of the Palestinian population lived in villages centered around agriculture…
In fact, Palestinians were displaced, not as the result of the establishment of the Jewish state but as the result of a war of aggression launched by Arab armies to annihilate it. Most estimates of the numbers of Palestinians displaced as a result of this war vary between 500,000 -600,000, with the vast majority of Arab refugees having fled in advance of the fighting, to escape the fighting, or at the behest of Arab leaders who urged them to temporarily leave their homes during the fighting. Although there were some instances where Arabs were expelled from their homes by Jewish troops during the hostilities, these represented only a small minority of those who were displaced.
Khan further emphasizes the theme of Jewish dispossession of Arabs when she writes of large areas near Haifa having been “originally allocated to a putative Arab state by the United Nations in 1947” that “were occupied by Israeli soldiers in 1948 after Arabs rejected the U.N [partition] plan….Many Palestinian families returned to razed homes and slaughtered livestock.”
Again, it was not that Arabs passively rejected the U.N. plan that led to Israeli soldiers occupying the area, but that they launched an aggressive war, in violation of the UN Charter, besieging Jewish communities and attacking Jewish defense troops. That property and lives were lost during these hostilities was a direct result of the illegal and ill-conceived attempt by Arab leaders to annihilate the Jewish state. Disingenuously leaving out relevant parts of the story implies Israeli guilt; It is an easy way to attack Israel.
The New York Times has been increasingly showcasing the claims of anti-Israel activists and promoting their propaganda against the Jewish state, be it under the guise of a film review, and now, cuisine and food preparation. It is yet another entrée into the wholesale delegitimization of the Jewish state, in an attempt to make it more palatable to the general public.