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‘Cooking is my politics’: Rawia Bishara’s Middle Eastern food is all about spreading culture

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Rawia Bishara, owner of Tanoreen and author of Olives, Lemons and Za'atar. (Photo: Institute for Middle East Understanding)

Rawia Bishara, owner of Tanoreen and author of Olives, Lemons and Za’atar. (Photo via Institute for Middle East Understanding)

When out-of-town friends pop in to Brooklyn for a visit and ask where they should go to eat, I have one answer for them: Tanoreen. The restaurant has the best Middle Eastern food you could ever eat in New York.

It’s in Bay Ridge, a neighborhood populated with many Arab-Americans that is located in New York’s southwest corner. Going to Bay Ridge is a trek if you live in the Brooklyn neighborhoods that are closer to Manhattan. But it’s worth it.

It’s true that Tanoreen is out of reach for those who don’t come to New York. But now, you don’t have to wait for a trip to the East Coast to taste the cooking of Rawia Bishara, the owner of the restaurant. (The co-owner is her daughter, Jumana Bishara.)

Earlier this year, Bishara’s book, Olives, Lemons and Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking, was published. Filled with delectable recipes from hummus to brussels sprouts—a favorite of Tanoreen-goers—to eggplant napoleon and more, the book is bound to make your mouth water. And you can cook it on your own.oliveslemonszaatar

In late July, I had the chance to sit down with Bishara, a Palestinian who is from Nazareth, in northern Israel. We discussed why she wrote the book, the relationship of Tanoreen to Olives, Lemons and Za’atar and why family is so important to the author.

If readers donate over $80 to the website, our site will send you Bishara’s book of recipes (or, alternatively, The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey). And if readers donate over $200, they will get a book and be invited to a delicious meal at Tanoreen with the Mondoweiss team later this year.

Alex Kane: My first question is simple. Could you explain to me how the idea for a book of recipes came about?

Rawia Bishara: I’ve been in the restaurant business for about 15 years, and through all those years, a lot of people have been asking me, “why don’t you write a book?” When I opened the restaurant, it was to honor my Mom and her recipes. And I figured [writing a book] would be a great way of doing it.

AK: And are the recipes based on your Mom’s cooking in Nazareth?

RB: Yes, most of the recipes are based on my mom’s cooking in Nazareth. That’s how I learned to cook.

AK: People who come to Tanoreen, your restaurant, will probably be familiar with at least some of the dishes, but not all. There are a lot of different dishes listed. How did you decide which types of food recipes to include?

RB: It’s really not every single one, and when I decided to open the restaurant and I made my menu, when I designed my menu, what was in mind—my Mom was the greatest cook—and I wanted to honor her and get all of this out. My Mom never cooked completely traditional. She was always creative and she always had her own way of slicing things and cooking things. And I figured I would take some thing that will honor her and at the same time honor the tradition that she comes from. Because the idea about our food, Middle Eastern food, is very, very misunderstood in this country and other countries.

When I came here close to forty years ago, people did not know anything about Middle Eastern food. And when they started finding out about Middle Eastern food, it was about falafel and hummus and shish kebab. And it’s really nothing compared to what we really cook and what we really offer. And I’ve seen Italian, Chinese and Japanese food become very successful. Everybody cooks their way and they bring food from their country—except us. And I wanted people to understand that we do have a very healthy, very beautiful tradition that puts families together around the table to eat, or to cook together in the kitchen. Usually cooking has a lot to do with culture: where you come from, what you are all about.

AFlmarginAK: In your book, you mention that you named your restaurant after a village in Lebanon.

RB: In fact, it’s not after a village in Lebanon—it’s after a song from the very famous singer. Her name is Fairuz, and she sings to Tanoreen, which is a village in northern Lebanon. But it’s from a song. I don’t know that village.

AK: Understood. But you are from Nazareth.

RB: Right, I’m Palestinian. To me, it makes no difference, and I’m sure to some people it does. I’ve been asked that question. To me, all names are international, and these days it doesn’t make a difference what you call your son, what you call your daughter. I mean, we are Palestinians and we have many foreign names in our country. It’s not all Arabic names, and I think the song is very beautiful, and it’s just the name of a village that I heard is extremely beautiful.

AK: And there are connections between the food people eat in Lebanon and the food they eat in Palestine.

RB: All the Levantine area—Syria, Lebanon, Palestine—is very similar. In fact, I think all the Mediterranean, not just Middle Eastern, is similar. I went to Greece, I went to Spain four times, to many European countries, to France. We all have the same ingredients. It’s just the way we put it together, and the spices, is what makes it different.

AK: You touched on this earlier by mentioning your Mom. In your book, you include a lot of interesting stories about your family and eating with them.  Could you explain the significance of those personal stories in a book otherwise about recipes?

RB: Recipes come from personal stories. It doesn’t come from the air. Something must have happened for a certain thing to become a certain way. I’m 100 percent sure of that. And if you grow up in a village, or an environment where they do everything from scratch, starting from making your own wheat to your own flour to your own tomato paste—all of these things—you will realize how much food is related to the personal and how much food is related to family and how much food is related to traditions and holidays. That’s how it comes about. And all these stories makes a life, and food is part of our life. It’s like 30 or 40 percent of our life, it’s very important. So it’s all connected.

AK: Olives, Lemons and Za’atar came out this year in March. What’s your take on the reaction to it, both among people who we would call “foodies,” and the general public?

RB: I’m extremely amazed at the success the book had. I wanted to write the book and I knew it was going to be published and sold, but we’re already in our fourth printing, and it’s fantastic. People tell me, or send me messages to our website and our e-mail, telling us how fantastic the recipes are, and how it’s easy to cook from it, and how everything is coming together and it tastes delicious. People are loving the pictures and are loving the culture and loving everything about the book.

AK: That’s great. The book is so vibrant.

RB: My children helped me. I would tell them what’s behind every recipe, what needs to happen, and they would help me put it together. That’s helped a lot. They know me very well and they know my family. So cooking is a connection between family, between kids, children and their parents. We are that type of people. We do sit together, we do cook together, we do shop together. It made it complete, and much better than if I had done by myself.

AK: Has there been a reaction in Nazareth to the book? I know it’s not translated into Arabic.

RB: Not yet, because it’s not even sold there. I just heard that it is being sold in Jerusalem. I’ve heard the reaction from the Palestinian side in the West Bank and Jerusalem. In fact, Ha’aretz published an article about it and we got a very good response from that too. But it’s not in the market [in Nazareth] yet. I think people would like to buy a book that is written in Arabic.

AK: Are there plans to translate it?

RB: Yes. From the beginning there was.

AK: Is the book also sold outside the US?

RB: It’s been sold everywhere. I heard it’s been sold in Australia, in the Arab countries. It’s been sold many places. It was published in England.

AK: The book is Palestinian, or Middle Eastern food, and obviously when people hear the word Palestinian, they think politics and conflict.

RB: But I don’t let them. It doesn’t interest me at all. I think cooking is politics. What I’m trying to do here—I wish everybody practiced politics like that. It’s spreading the culture. It’s showing the real face of us and who we are and what we are all about. And I think this is politics. My politics. I think when you speak politics, talk politics directly, you always create a challenge and other opinions. It’s different from accepting the other. Food is taste. They taste, they accept, and it goes from there. It’s as simple as that. I think this is the best way.

AK: I see in the restaurant there are signs for the book. Has the restaurant played a role, like hosting events for the book?

RB: It’s the other way around. The restaurant is very popular. It’s very well rated in Zagat and Michelin, and we got articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker. Everybody wrote about it. It’s extremely popular already. We’ve been in business for a long time and a lot of people tried the food, and those are the first people who bought the book. And it’s word of mouth. It starts spreading around. It’s people like you that makes it spread around more. It’s being talked about, and if people did not try the food and like it, I don’t think we would have had the same reaction to it.

AK: My last question is: if a random person came in, and they didn’t know about the book, what would you say to them to convince them to buy the book? Why should they buy it?

RB: Honestly, people come in and they eat and they tell me, “this is so delicious.” And I say, “why don’t you cook it?” And the guys on the floor usually ask me, “why don’t you have a cookbook?” “Why don’t you have cooking classes?” I’m always asked that question too. I do De Gustibus, the cooking school, on the eight floor of Macy’s. It’s quite popular. I do it twice a year, three hour lessons, and it’s always full. In general, I go out in my dining room every half an hour and I meet everybody that’s eating and talk to them and I see if they are doing okay, because this is part of feeding everybody.

AK: Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you think is important to say?

RB: The way I did the book, it’s for families to start giving some interest in buying some good, healthy food, cooking their own meals, spending time making it, and spending time eating it together. It is so extremely important that you put your family together on a dining table—lunch or dinner or whatever it is—whether you have little kids or older kids, because it brings a family together in a way that nothing else does. And it’s extremely important because we are losing family institutions. Family is a part of society. Whether we are here in New York or we are back in Palestine or in Nazareth or in Jerusalem or Los Angeles or Tokyo, this always keeps us in relation with our humanity. Being together, talking together, it makes us reach out. It makes us much better than everybody on his own Iphone, Ipad, or this or that, and it’s getting more and more—the loneliness, the separation in society, which I really don’t appreciate at all.

I’m talking about families being together. Get your stuff together. Buy it. Go home, sit down, have a glass of wine, cook together, eat together—you can’t believe the closeness, you can’t believe the feeling. I think it’s a very, very important part of society that people are losing. We need to get it back. If any cookbook helps, let’s do it through cookbooks.

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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26 Responses

  1. Walid on August 8, 2014, 2:44 pm

    Tanourine is the plural of tanour, the clay oven better known to some as the Indian tandoor. It’s also the name of an actual village in the Lebanese mountains named after the ovens in the Syriac language. The song in question by Fairuz is a’a hadir al-bosta, meaning “to the roar of the bosta”, which were buses like the old Blue Bird school buses that are still used as common transports between the Lebanese villages and rather folkloric by the people that ride them. Fairuz sings of the colourful ride she took on one of these buses between the villages of Himlaya and Tanourine and of the beautiful eyes of Alia; written for Fairuz by her jazz pianist son, Ziad Rahbani:

    The Bus
    I am promised with your eyes, promised
    And if you only knew how many villages I crossed for them
    You, you, your eyes are black
    You don’t know, you don’t know
    What they do to me, what they do to me, what they do to me
    Your black eyes

    On the roaring of the bus
    Which was taking us
    From the village of Himlaya to the village of Tanourine
    I remembered you, Aliya, and I remembered your eyes
    And damn your eyes, Aliya, how pretty they are!
    On the roaring of the bus
    Which was taking us
    From the village of Himlaya to the village of Tanourine
    I remembered you, Aliya, and I remembered your eyes
    And damn your eyes, Aliya, how pretty they are!

    We were traveling
    In this killing heat
    We were traveling
    In this killing heat
    One of the passengers was eating lettuce
    And one was eating figs
    There was one with his wife
    And oh, how ugly was his wife!
    They’re so lucky, the people of Tanourine
    How empty their minds are
    And they don’t know, Aliya, how beautiful your eyes are!
    How beautiful they are!

    On the roaring of the bus
    Which was taking us
    From the village of Himlaya to the village of Tanourine
    I remembered you, Aliya, and I remembered your eyes
    And damn your eyes, Aliya, how pretty they are!

    We were riding
    Riding without paying
    We were riding
    Riding without paying
    Sometimes we would hold the door for the driver
    And sometimes we would hold the passengers for him
    And the one with his wife,
    She got dizzy and fainted on his shoulders
    I swear to you, if he had only seen how pretty your eyes are
    He would have left her to go to Tanourine by herself

    On the roaring of the bus
    Which was taking us
    From the village of Himlaya to the village of Tanourine
    I remembered you, Aliya, and I remembered your eyes
    And damn your eyes, Aliya, how pretty they are!

    On the roaring of the bus
    Which was taking us
    From the village of Himlaya to the village of Tanourine
    I remembered you, Aliya, and I remembered your eyes
    And damn your eyes, Aliya, how pretty they are!

    • Inanna on August 9, 2014, 7:23 am

      I have a hard time believing there is decent Levantine food outside of London and Paris (I have to admit that a cousin of mine owns a Lebanese restaurant in Paris) but I’ll have to hit up this place next time I’m in New York. After all, she mentioned Fairouz and Tannourine, 2 of my favourite things about Lebanon.

  2. pineywoodslim on August 8, 2014, 3:05 pm

    Mmm. Makes me hungry.

    For those of you in the area, another great Palestinian restaurant and grocery is the Holy Land on North Central Ave in Minneapolis.

    I always stock up on my za’atar and Palestine olive oil everytime I go.

    • Marnie on August 9, 2014, 1:34 am

      @pineywoodslim – that’s a wonderful place and my hometown

  3. Walid on August 8, 2014, 4:09 pm

    Zaatar is another of Israel’s several cultural thefts of Palestinian patrimony. In 1977 it passed a law against the picking of zaatar in commercial quantities supposedly because it was becoming an endangered species, which was just another of Israel’s gimmicks to prevent Palestinians from earning a living. Israel is now claiming it as one of its national foods. Excerpt from the Columbia News service with photos of the green zaatar plant and the dried brownish version once dried and mixed with other herbs. :

    “… In Israel and the West Bank, za’atar also has a sociopolitical resonance far beyond culinary and nutritive realms. It has been a protected plant since 1977, when Israeli legislation made it illegal to pick it in the wild. Environmentalists claim that overharvesting has nearly denuded Israel of wild za’atar, and offenders risk fines of up to $4,000 or six months imprisonment for picking commercial quantities.

    In the U.S., as the popularity of za’atar is on the rise, and the spice is being revered for its distinctive taste. Little by little, za’atar is going mainstream. But in Middle Eastern homes, za’atar has a political significance that doesn’t cross borders.

    Prior to the ban, za’atar already played an important symbolic role in Palestinian identity. Za’atar has been celebrated in the poems of the late Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish and has been equated to “a symbol of the lost Palestinian homeland,” according to Omar Khalifah, a Palestinian-Jordanian Ph.D. candidate in Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia University.

    Amidst the ruins of a historic Palestinian village near Jerusalem, za’atar and prickly pear grow in the wild. (Photo by Melissa Muller Daka/CNS)

    Palestinians still forage for the herb in the wild because it remains an important symbolic role in their identity, said anthropologist Nasser Farraj, director of Palestinian Fair Trade, a company based in the West Bank that exports za’atar spice mixture. Farraj says the ban is a form of discrimination against Palestinians that has nothing to do with protecting the plant. “It is a political issue, definitely not an environmental one,” he says. The ban is a “land control and land access issue,” that has transformed the traditional foraging and consuming the iconic herb into an act of resistance against Israeli authority…”

    for full article:

    http://columbianewsservice.com/2010/02/the-spicy-politics-of-a-new-food-trend/

    • adele on August 8, 2014, 6:50 pm

      Walid,
      when I first heard about that ridiculous law I gave a cynical laugh. The za’atar is in no way, shape or form at risk of being over-harvested in the wild, that plant is so hardy and so tenacious, it would be easier to eradicate weeds in a garden. As you say, the law was solely another malicious Israeli tactic to control the land and distance Palestinians from their heritage. The fact that the za’atar plant has survived centuries upon centuries of being harvested is all that is needed to disprove the premise behind the law.

      In our area of Italy, all the villagers would go to the mountains to forage for oregano. There were lots of regulations even back in the day about what/when to forage for certain plant species to ensure conservation, but no regulations whatsoever concerning wild oregano. Simply because it grows in such abundance, just like the za’atar plant. If you were to tell a villager that foraging of oregano was to be restricted for conservation purposes they would laugh at you.

  4. jon s on August 8, 2014, 4:24 pm

    Walid, let me get this straight: by protecting the plant,( used a lot by Palestinians..)and saving it from extinction, Israel is discriminating against the Palestinians…Right?

    • Walid on August 8, 2014, 11:50 pm

      Of course, jon s, since when does Israel try to preserve any Palestinian heritage? Israel destroyed their villages, prevented their return, renamed their streets and regions, discriminated against them, prevented them from building homes and stole whatever else they didn’t screw up just to erase them from the land. And now you are saying that as far back as 1977, Israel cared so much for the Palestinians that it passed a law to preserve the Zaatar for future Palestinian generations?

    • adele on August 9, 2014, 12:05 am

      so let me get this straight Jonny, the Palestinians who have farmed and foraged their lands for millennia and didn’t manage to cause extinction of the za’atar plant, now need the Israelis to teach them how to be good land stewards? Oh gosh, who knew! Ok, well, care to tell me why Israeli settlers uproot olive trees? Is this also a benevolent occupation policy that we aren’t aware of?

      • jon s on August 9, 2014, 2:32 am

        Well, I can’t say that I remember anything about the za’atar situation in 1977, but , fact is, today in 2014, there’s plenty of za’atar, available for all.

    • Inanna on August 9, 2014, 7:17 am

      Bullshit jon s. The same plant is harvested annually in Lebanon by basically every family living in the rural areas and is in no danger of becoming extinct. Israel is trying to greenwash quashing a food and an activity that is a basic part of Palestinian and Levantine culture and food.

  5. tokyobk on August 8, 2014, 6:35 pm

    “But I don’t let them. It doesn’t interest me at all. I think cooking is politics. What I’m trying to do here—I wish everybody practiced politics like that. It’s spreading the culture. It’s showing the real face of us and who we are and what we are all about. And I think this is politics. My politics. I think when you speak politics, talk politics directly, you always create a challenge and other opinions. It’s different from accepting the other. Food is taste. They taste, they accept, and it goes from there. It’s as simple as that. I think this is the best way.”

    Amen. There is no better way to getting down to the business of being human than food. And food tells us our human story is interchange of everything, especially culture.

    Though I forewent my book w/my MW donation, I will get a copy and I look forward to visiting when next Stateside.

    Recently prime Minister Abe tried to wink at the rightwing of Japan by saying something about how he regrets Japanese people don’t eat enough Japanese food. Only problem for him and any other purist (because it works in almost every cuisine) is that every Japanese food item in the pantheon has its, often quite recent, origins somewhere else. And Restaurants in Japan serving Japanese food are disproportionately run by people of recent Chinese and Korean heritage.

    • eljay on August 8, 2014, 7:03 pm

      >> R.B.:

      … I think cooking is politics. What I’m trying to do here—I wish everybody practiced politics like that. It’s spreading the culture. It’s showing the real face of us and who we are and what we are all about. And I think this is politics. My politics. I think when you speak politics, talk politics directly, you always create a challenge and other opinions. It’s different from accepting the other. Food is taste. They taste, they accept, and it goes from there. It’s as simple as that. I think this is the best way.

      Sounds great. So, are Zio-supremacists supposed to taste, accept and atone; or are Palestinians supposed to taste, accept and submit?

      Or is the idea to keep eating while Zio-supremacists continue to steal, occupy and colonize Palestinian land and oppress, torture and kill Palestinians?

      • tokyobk on August 8, 2014, 8:28 pm

        I think her point is that sharing Palestinian culture as a human event not as a narrowly defined episode, within a specific context or conflict is significant, which I think is true. It does not, however, solve the problems you mention which need immediate solving. De-exoticizing is not everything but its something.

        For example the increasing number of things like Bourdain in Palestine made the recent images from Gaza more readable as a human event not, instead and as per usual, another far away Middle Eastern conflict.

      • eljay on August 8, 2014, 10:37 pm

        >> tokyobk: I think her point is that sharing Palestinian culture as a human event not as a narrowly defined episode, within a specific context or conflict is significant, which I think is true.

        I understood it this way: She’s a restaurateuse and “politics and conflict” are bad for business. So she prefers to let the food speak for itself. In the specific context of her business, her “politics” makes perfect sense.

        But surely she must have noticed that although Americans and other Westerners have been “tasting and accepting” Middle Eastern food for decades, their governments still manage to “create a challenge and other opinions” for the countries of and people in the Middle East.

      • tokyobk on August 9, 2014, 2:42 am

        Fair enough eljay.

      • Walid on August 8, 2014, 11:42 pm

        I agree, tokyobk, she surely wasn’t thinking of Zio-supremacists. These people don’t need de-exoticizing but detoxing of the venom their carry for Palestinians.

      • eljay on August 9, 2014, 9:40 am

        >> tokyobk: Fair enough eljay.

        Appreciated. :-)

      • Mooser on August 9, 2014, 12:09 am

        tokyobk, do you realize what you just said?

      • tokyobk on August 9, 2014, 2:35 am

        Yes I know what I said: that fetishizing cultures as only oppositional denies them the full human range and makes it easier to colonize and bomb them (while calling them the terrorists). Then I said that humanized images from Palestine rather than dehumanizing images as per usual is part of why Gaza has resonated more than before. How you heard this or misheard this willfully or otherwise. I have no clue. But, you always find a way.

      • Mooser on August 9, 2014, 2:20 pm

        “How you heard this or misheard this willfully or otherwise. I have no clue. But, you always find a way.”

        I hear you loud and clear tokyobk. And so do some others, I see. You should try listening to yourself sometimes.

      • can of worms on August 9, 2014, 4:05 am

        “De-exoticizing is not everything, but its something.”

        On the contrary, people enjoy restaurants precisely because they enable them to exoticize the Other. Case in point, tons of Israelis who love venturing across the segregation lines for an hour’s visit to experience authentic Palestinian restaurants, where they can maybe exchange a few words with an authentic Palestinian waiter (servant). After this cultural experience they can return home to their Jewish-only streets located in Jewish-only neighborhoods, that lease and sell real estate to Jewish-only renters and buyers, so that their kids can go to Jewish-only schools and grow up to run Jewish-only institutions ensuring a Jewish-only economy. Eljay’s point is well taken.

      • Walid on August 9, 2014, 2:22 pm

        “On the contrary, people enjoy restaurants precisely because they enable them to exoticize the Other. ”

        Can’t Jews enjoy Arabic food simply because they like the taste and what’s this thing about going across the lines to exchange words with the servants? I know of one Lebanese restaurant whose regular clients are in good part Jews and there’s nothing political about that; they simply enjoy the good food.

        I don’t doubt that Rawia’s cuisine is great and I wouldn’t be surprised if a good many of her customers are Jews that go to her restaurant for no other reason than for her great food.

      • tokyobk on August 9, 2014, 3:51 pm

        Yup Mooser, good advice which everyone should take. Write clearly (though I think we all write more loosely here and on social media than we do in formal situations).

        And listen to others, right?

        Both eljay and can of worms made good points. I realise I am a sucker for universalist talk and also for food culture. But, yes food can be exoticizing as well and the point both make is it does not change the immediate reality.

  6. Dagon on August 8, 2014, 10:47 pm

    Small world,I was two years ahead of her at the baptist school in nazareth.She is the sister of azmi,and marwan bishara of aljazeera unfortunate fame.Pretty accomplished family,including a wonderful recently departed sister,Rawda.I’ll get the book.

  7. Rooster on August 9, 2014, 6:19 am

    Great to see food as a vehicle towards cultural understanding and thus recognition of legitimacy of human rights (including right of resistance against occupation).

    Contrast this with the hateful Golan-Globus films (“Cannon” productions), half of the team of propagandists, Menachem Golan, died yesterday at 85 in Israel ( see http://variety.com/2014/film/news/menachem-golan-who-headed-cannon-films-dies-at-85-1201278731/ ). Formerly “Globus,” he changed his name to Golan after the 1948 “War Of Independence,” aka Nakba. Produced/directed multiple films responsible for dehumanization of not just Palestinians, but brown and yellow skinned people everywhere, most notably the “Delta Force” series with Chuck Norris, but also winners like “Operation Thunderbolt” on the Israeli rescue of hostages held by Palestinians in Uganda.

    From article by Christian Blauvelt on the documentary by Jack Shaheen, “Reel Bad Arabs”:

    “Another business scripting Palestinian villains is the U.S. production company, Cannon Pictures, run by two Israeli producers, Menachem Golan and Yoram Globus. Over a period of 20 years, Cannon Pictures released thirty films specifically designed to bastardize Arab culture and specifically vilify Palestinians. One particular piece of exploitation trash Cannon released called Hell Squad (1985) depicts Vegas showgirls fighting bloodthirsty Arabs in the desert while wearing skimpy costumes and unleashing poorly choreographed martial arts moves. (Image 34-35) Golan and Globus’s most effective and popular film The Delta Force (1986) takes their racism to new heights depicting Palestinian terrorists hijacking an airliner and specifically targeting the Jewish passengers for horrific torture and beatings.”

    One of Jon Voight’s biggest films, Runaway Train, was produced by the Golan in 1985, earning Voight an Academy Award nomination.

    You remember Jon Voight, right?

    Most recently he publicly skewered Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz for their co-signing a letter of support for Gaza: (From http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/03/showbiz/jon-voight-israel-gaza/ ) “Los Angeles (CNN) — Jon Voight calls fellow actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz “obviously ignorant” and warns a “poison letter” they signed “could incite anti-Semitism all over the world.” Voight wrote in an opinion column published by the Hollywood Reporter on Sunday that Bardem and Cruz “should hang your heads in shame” and “ask forgiveness from the suffering people in Israel.”
    Bardem and Cruz, who are married, co-signed a letter last week attacking Israel’s treatment of Gaza. The actors were immediately attacked for their words, prompting both to issue statements saying they were just making pleas for peace.”

    According to his imdb biography page ‘Personal Quotes’ section, Jon Voight has this gem:

    -“He’s really extreme, but he’s always trying to say something to cover it. He’s like a Leftist from the Sixties. I was on the Left, that’s why I know who he is. He says he’ll talk to everybody like Hamas and Iran, but it’s simple-minded candy he’s throwing to the extreme left wing. He’d be the biggest disaster for Israel – and all democracies – that I can think of.” – On Senator Barack Obama.

    According to the same bio page, “In 2000, Voight became involved with the Florida Holocaust Museum and worked very closely with then-Executive Director Larry Wasser (deceased 2003) and President John Loftus, famous U.S. Justice Department official, author and former prosecutor. Voight serves today as an advisory member of their Board. His contributions in supporting the Florida Holocaust Museums programs have made a long-lasting impact to helping the children in Florida become better citizens through character education.”

    And, of course, from this 2011 mondoweiss article, Jon Voight has his choice of seating at Glenn Beck’s [West+East] Jerusalem rally:
    http://mondoweiss.net/2011/08/tons-of-empty-seats-at-glenn-becks-jlem-rally.html#respond

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