Taking Hummus Back

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!

About Shirin Zarqa-Lederman 16 Articles
Shirin Zarqa-Lederman was raised in NJ by her Palestinian Muslim parents and later married her Russian Jewish husband. Together they have five interethnic children who experience the traditional customs of both cultures with their extended interethnic relatives. Shirin is also Licensed Professional Counselor, focusing on Child & Adolescent Psychology, and has written her own children’s picture book series, "The Trotters of Tweeville," which is focused on demonstrating kindness to children. The series is available wherever books are sold.


  1. Lol – I’m *shocked* that there are not one thousand comments (& that mine is the first & only one) on a post about food here! Perhaps everyone wore themselves out when a similar post about food was done here awhile ago. (I think it was about wether taboule was Lebanese [it is btw] or Palestinian. And if it was real life vs. online life – there would have been shouting & that one crazy person ready to throw a punch over it).

    This is very important. When people are literally trying to prove the people they’ve colonised & murdered don’t exist & never existed. There is truth in nuance.

    It’s cultural vampirism. Like they need Oriental *blood* to survive.

    Wasn’t there a Twilight Zone episode that touched on this? A couple wakes up & bits of their life begin to have never existed? Help me out here Twilight Zone nerds.

    For awhile I couldn’t eat any legumes. (I still can’t eat wheat – Celiac). I thought I was going to die. It’s half our cuisine. Wheat & legumes. I was eating like an ancient Bedouin: meat & milk/cheese/yogurt & an occasional piece of fruit. I was like an unintentional monastic.

    Hummus is ours – as is the rest you mentioned. That said our indigenous Jewish cousins dressed & ate & spoke exactly as we did. (The reason why they were also slaughtered by Crusaders who mistook them for Muslims along w/ indigenous Christians). It’s basically the indigenous food of Southwest Asia. Some of our food comes from Greeks/Romans/Turks (Oh the horror…).

    I’m off to read the Rachel Ray link & probably be infuriated. At times like that I thank Allah I can have a drink. Xxx

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