Comedian | Professor | Writer
(& Smartest) Arab
In case you haven’t noticed, the Israeli PR machine has this rabid reaction when the rhetoric surrounding Palestine has the slightest twinge of favorability to Palestinian statehood. They’ve been a bit sensitive since 128 countries voted against making their land grab of Jerusalem official. So when James Zogby of the Arab American Institute called Rachel Ray’s Israeli appropriation of Palestinian Arab cuisine a “cultural genocide,” it lit a fire under JPost editors, who turned one comment into a “Twitter War,” (always picking fights, those Israelis are). Call it my inherent Palestinian optimism, but for the sake of argument, I decided to look into this “cultural genocide.” There’s enough of a laundry list of dirty human rights violations to call Israel an apartheid state for two lifetimes, so if they are not hijacking the culture along with the land, there’s no need to add insult to injury.
So “yalla, fudalu”, time to talk eats!
Hummus? Well, let’s begin with the fact that “hummus” literally translates in Arabic to “chickpea.” Contrary to popular belief, hummus (the chickpea) is used in a variety of traditional Arabic entrees like Fattah Hummus and Maftoul, and of course the ultimate fan favorite – Falafel. I should also probably add that “hummus,” dates back to a 13th century Arabic Cookbook, Kitab Wasf al-Atima al-Mutada (Arabic for ‘The Description of Familiar Food’).
Tabouli? Ironically it’s not a word that was found in the English language until around the 1950s (there’s a head scratcher-NOT). Perhaps that’s because it’s an Arabic word that stems from the word ‘tabil’ which again literally translates to “seasoning,” like Mutabil, which translates to “seasoned eggplant.” a.k.a. Baba Ganoush. He was a victim of Rach’s culinary genocide on Palestinian food. She reduced Baba (Arabic for “father”) Ganoush (Arabic for “flattery”) to “eggplant dip.” Poor Baba.
I could continue this rant about the Israeli appropriation of Palestinian food, but the truth is, it’s another nail in the cultural coffin of Palestine. Historian Ilan Pappe wrote a book about it, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. He coined the term “memoracide” to describe the systemic theft of the Palestinian indigenous culture and their cultural narrative.
I know what you’re thinking:
“Oh come on, its hummus, it’s not genocide or memoracide. It’s only hummus.”
But it’s not.
It’s street signs changed from Arabic to Hebrew. It’s village names changed from Arabic to Hebrew. It’s Jerusalem, Palestine to Jerusalem, Israel. The Rachel Ray tweet was more of the same “whitewashing” policy that Israel has implemented with anything remotely Palestinian. Israel literally occupies Palestine in any way it can get away with. From street names, to homes, to olive trees, to school buildings, to villages and food.
Truthfully, everyone of Arab origin should be nauseated. The Zionist Map of “the promised land” consists of Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, parts of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Egypt. Those nations should be concerned and grateful for Palestinian resistance and resilience, or Israel would have come for them a lot sooner.
So let’s think about that before we dismiss the importance of the origins of hummus.
As for Rachel Ray? I have a peace offering: Invite Laila Haddad, writer of The Gaza Kitchen on your show to demonstrate Palestinian cooking. Otherwise, keep your appropriations OUT of our kitchens!