An American friend in Europe writes:
Every year in this week of November, the UN Women’s Guild puts on a bazaar in Geneva. Every country sets up a booth selling national crafts and foods for the benefit of UN organizations like UNICEF and WHO, and many countries also set up portable kitchens serving a dazzling array of food and drink from all over the world. If you are curious about Laotian beer, this is the day to taste it. We settled on Hungary, and ate chicken stuffed with foie gras, potato cakes, and sour cherry strudel. We bought honey from Chad, coffee from Honduras, dried roses from Iraq, paprika from Hungary, saffron from Afghanistan and Iran.
It is the most Utopian spectacle you can imagine, faces and bodies of every variety, dressed in the marvelous, brilliantly colored clothes women have imagined and made, wearing every conceivable kind of ornament, and head coverings from wreaths of Polish ribbons to nets of semiprecious stones on the heads of two African women laughing as they rode the escalator up. The women work extremely hard to make a success of this much anticipated day–you can see it acknowledged in the respect and affection with which they treat each other, spontaneous embraces between veiled and unveiled, congratulatory hands on shoulders, and cherishing explanations of the crafts their tables offer. Even the sad dictatorship of Belarus offers a complicated and artful black bread, studded with nuts and raisins. It really is women at their best, embodying the many arts of living in the civilizations they have caused. It is hard not to be moved, you are translated into a vision of peace, and, yes, you see in a visionary way, as if you were William Blake, the irreplaceable beauty in each person, the poem of each person.
I went first to the Palestine booth, and bought olive oil, dates, and za’atar. Most countries have elegant gift bags for the purchases–Armenia has bags printed with its alphabet, etc.–and I noted how different the Palestinian bags for the olive oil bottles are from two years ago. Those were printed on one side with a map of Palestine, surmounted by a Palestinian flag crowned with a flame, and the legend: Mission of Palestine to the UN and other Intl. Organizations, Geneva-Switzerland. On the other side, in Arabic and English, the motto, “From the Ancient Olive Trees of Palestine.” This year, though, the bag has an image of a national seal, a distinguished and rather scholarly looking Eagle bearing a shield with the red, green, and black colors of Palestine, and the legend:
Permanent Observer Mission of The State of Palestine to the UN and Other Intl. Organizations, Geneva-Switzerland. And on the other side, the motto, “Palestinian Tradition in Every Drop.”
And refusing this vision together, shoulder to shoulder, are the US and Israel. As we went in, it appeared that only Canada would agree to be anywhere near them. The Israel booth was ornamented with large posters for the illegal settlement products of the Ahava company. And the US booth was covered with industrial food products, the kind of food that harms people–the counter was covered with huge bags of Snickers, and other cheap candies, and factory cookies like Oreos; the shelves in back with cake mixes and boxes of other processed foods of fanatical capitalism and decadent vulgarity, sold at the expense of health as well as taste, a cancer in every box, an acre of ruined topsoil in every mouthful of corn syrup and food coloring, a combination of defiant inferiority and bullying hostility to civilization.
Next to the simple Canadian booth offering glass bottles of maple syrup, the US booth, with the booth of its rogue state ally growing out of its side, and its determination to force the world, including its own citizens, to eat shit, was an open insult.