Monday, June 8, 2015

That Food on the Stove

"I do completely agree that to turn falafel to something that is considered Israeli food is just totally wrong." - Yotam Ottolenghi, quoted in Yotam Ottolenghi & the authors of 'The Gaza Kitchen' discuss food, conflict, culture,, 27/3/13)

Damn right, Yotam. Just like turning Palestine into something called Israel.

But I digress:

"When Israel expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their villages and homes in 1948, many left with little more than the clothes on their back. Food was left on the stove. Crops were left unharvested. But the land emptied of its inhabitants was soon occupied by new residents.

"From 1948 to 1953, almost all new Jewish settlements were established on refugees' property... During these early years, many Palestinian refugees attempted to return to their lands. By 1956, as many as 5,000 so-called 'infiltrators' had been killed by Israeli armed forces...

"The Nakba in 1948 was the settler colonial conquest of land and the displacement of its owners, a dual act of erasure and appropriation. Citing 'reasons of state', Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion appointed a Negev Names Committee to remove Arabic names from the map...

"But it did not stop with dynamite and new maps. The Zionist colonisation of Palestine has also included culture, notably cuisine. This is the context for the so-called 'hummus wars': it is not about petty claims and counterclaims, rather, the story is one of colonial, cultural appropration and resistance to those attempts.

"In the decades since the establishment of the State of Israel on the ruins and ethnically cleansed lands of Palestine, various elements of the indigenous cuisine have been targeted for appropriation: falafel, knafeh, sahlab and, of course, hummus. Though these dishes are common to a number of communities across the Mediterranean and Middle East, Israel claims them as its own: falafel is the 'national snack', while hummus, according to Israeli food writer Janna Gur, is 'a religion'." (Israel's obsession with hummus is about more than stealing Palestine's food, Ben White,, 23/5/15)

Israeli appropriation of Palestinian cuisine, of course, is only the most recent manifestation of Zionist theft in Palestine, and one designed to facilitate the fictional claim to somehow being native (give or take 2 millennia) to the area.

It should never be forgotten that back when the Zionist movement was still establishing itself in Palestine under the protection of British guns (1918-48), Zionists settlers wouldn't be seen dead eating falafel, hummus and the rest. Check out this little propaganda gem from 1935

"Four years ago, there were no cafes in Palestine except for a few Arab cafes or restaurants in the older sections of the town, where, in their picturesque garb, they squatted on the floors smoking narghillas. These older places have been replaced by more up-to-date Jewish cafes where modernly dressed Orientals and Christians patronize these places amid light and cleanliness, unknown in the old regime, where orchestras entertain the guests, with high class foods and drinks.

"The most popular cafe in Jerusalem is known as The Vienna, where the elite of the community and other well-known personages are to be found among the guests. The Europa is a much larger and much gayer place than the Vienna. There, the audiences are more cosmopolitan and there is dancing and other amusements for the guests. Many Arabs go to the Europa. There are many other smaller places, among them the Machnes Yehudah which caters specially to the Oriental Jews." (Palestine's night life goes modern! High class, modern cafes and restaurants now offer good food, drinks, music!, M.L. Avner, The American Jewish Outlook, 13/9/35)

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