Chickpeas soaked overnight, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt mixed and prepared the right way make a delicious plate known across the globe as hummus (To my fellow Americans, please note that pumpkin spice is not in any way, shape or form part of the ingredients).
Hummus, a staple dish in almost every Middle Eastern household, has been claimed by many nations as “their” dish. People will tell you, with a wide smile, that “their” delectable dish of hummus, is prepared using recipes that were handed down for generations. They will stake their claim of original ownership as they share a plateful of it with you, but they will never share their secret ingredient (again, never pumpkin spice). This mostly friendly feud over ownership of a food that is really owned by none has become a playful “food wars” quip. Take for example this video trailer of “Hummus! The Movie.”
Here is the description as posted by the Israel Film Festival in Singapore on YouTube:
“In Hummus! The Movie we are introduced to three main characters – a hard working Muslim woman, an ever-smiling Jew and a young Christian Arab, who despite their historical and cultural differences, have one thing in common… a passionate love of Hummus!”
Sounds playful and fun right? A fresh breath of air in this Arab-Israeli “conflict.”
But this seemingly innocuous, friendly feud over a dish is not really all that innocent. While some may get worked up about others culturally appropriating what they feel is rightfully theirs, most miss the more insidious effect of such acts of propaganda.
The video is very calculated and well produced to give the viewer the impression, under the guise of a seemingly harmless cultural/religious feud, that Israel is a pluralistic, democratic society. It’s saying, “Look we have Jews, Christians and Muslims living alongside each other and having a fun, friendly dispute over food” Meanwhile every 30 seconds you get a flash of this:
A map with the word Israel in bold over a region that even extends past the boundaries of current day Israel (Israel’s actual land aspirations are a subject of another article).
In the video, the mention of Palestinians is incidental and unremarkable (the gentleman saying he is Israeli, but his roots are Palestinian) and they are referred to as Arab. Arabic is nothing but white noise in the background as even the Muslim Arab woman is speaking Hebrew.
My issue is not appropriation of hummus, my issue is that the movie continues with a narrative that is untrue and, unfortunately, widely accepted in western societies. A narrative that portrays Israel as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Meanwhile Israeli bulldozers are razing Palestinian homes to make room for settlements and Israeli forces, supported with a $3.9 Billion annual aid from the US, are shooting peaceful protesters for simply demanding freedom.
Such hasbara (A form of propaganda aimed at an international audience, primarily, but not exclusively, in western countries. It is meant to influence the conversation in a way that positively portrays Israeli political moves and policies, including actions undertaken by Israel in the past. Often, Hasbara efforts includes a negative portrayal of the Arabs and especially of Palestinians.) is not limited to the world of food. Israel lately has been riding the coattails of interfaith activities and initiatives to further promote its fictitious image of tolerance and coexistence.
Take for example the latest event making the rounds in the United Sates. A supposed “multicultural women’s empowerment program” where 12 Israeli women (notice Israeli) Jewish, Muslim and Christian share how they “discovered they have much more in common” living in western Galilee. This is yet another attempt at diverting attention from the realities of Israel’s atrocities on the grounds. A government that subjects millions of Palestinians, original inhabitants of the land, to the daily humiliation of military checkpoints and random curfews. The same government that often prevents congregants from attending weekly Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque. The same government that has killed thousands and injured many more.
This faithwashing of the occupation is intended to dupe us into believing a deceptive image of interfaith coexistence on the same land the Israeli government has driven its original inhabitants, who truly coexisted peacefully, from. An elaborate scheme that unfortunately many Muslims have fallen prey to (The event that took place in my town was co-sponsored by a local Muslim organization that did not do their due diligence).
Israel’s occupation of the mind is far more dangerous than its usurping of land. Their conflation of Judaism and Zionism and their constant, tireless barrage of a skewed narrative is nothing but a ploy to cover up and an attempt to scrub all the blood it’s spilled, and continues to spill, over the past 70 years. Israel is an apartheid, colonialist, expansionist government that is aided and abetted by our U.S. government’s unwavering monetary, military and diplomatic support. This intentional sanitization of an ugly occupation further victimizes its victims and we cannot, must not stay silent in the face of such injustice.
This post was originally published on Ahmed Abdelmageed’s blog on October 30, 2018.