A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Falafel Wars

More food fights, this time involving falafel. (Sorry: link was wrong but now fixed.) At least, unlike the various hummus and other battles documented in that first link, they aren't trying to make the world's biggest falafel. Oh, the beans, the beans! But I'm still always bothered over the fight about whether hummus, or baba ghanouj, or falafel, or whatever, is Israeli or Palestinian. The similarities of the dietary laws between Judaism and Islam has often meant that in the modern US, if no halal grocery was available, observant Muslims would buy from kosher shops. Conversely, many Jews in Arab countries welcomed the fact that Muslim dietary taboos tracked so closely with their own, so even food without a rabbinical stamp might be quite kosher if it was halal.

Israelis should remember that the pioneers of the state got to know hummus and falafel becsuse that was the food available when they started their work. Israelis should also remember that their own pioneers had only arrived in the land a short time previous.

It's a harder task for Palestinians. They see every Israeli claim to hummus or falafel as a piece of cultural genocide. To us., it sounds absurd until we think about it. If we are what we eat, is it any surprise that our most intractable dispute today has a culinary competition?

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