(photo credit: Courtesy)
In a Twitter battle that raised eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic, James Zogby accused Israel of “cultural genocide” after American celebrity cook Rachael Ray posted a photo of “Israeli nite,” with hummus, stuffed grape leaves and other edibles.
Zogby, the founder of Arab American Institute, and managing director of Zogby Research Services, took issue with Ray’s December 21 post: “Holiday feast highlights – Israeli night, meze, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, beet dip, eggplant and sun dried tomato dip, walnut and red pepper dip, and tabouli,” she tweeted.
Wrote Zogby, “This is cultural genocide. It’s not Israeli food. It’s Arab (Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Jordanian). First the Israelis take the land and ethnically cleanse it of Arabs. Now they take their food and culture and claim it’s theirs too! Shame.”
Bret Stephens, op-ed columnist at The New York Times and a former Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief, joined the battle on Tuesday. “Please tell me this is a joke tweet,” he wrote. “Or is it ‘cultural genocide’ when Arabs use Israeli technology? Do you use Instant Messaging? Waze? If so, please stop.” Waze was invented in Israel.
Zogby responded that the case would only be similar if he used Waze and then claimed it was Lebanese. Zogby’s father was a Lebanese immigrant to the US.
“This isn’t a joke. It’s about a history of cultural appropriate and a systematic effort to erase Palestinian history and culture,” he claimed. There was a ray of hope. “Peace is possible, but not on those terms.”
Stephens responded that hummus was first mentioned as a Cairene food in the 13th century. “Maybe Maimonides came up with it,” he wrote, referencing the famed Jewish philosopher, Torah scholar and physician to sultans.
Tweeted Commentary editor John Podhoretz to Zogby, “Here’s a solution to the problem: Rachel Ray decides to refuse using the words hummus and Israeli in the same sentence once you go to the West Wall and declare it the sign of the Jewish connection to the Holy Land dating back farther than any Arabs.”
Replied Zogby, “This isn’t about Israeli and hummus, it’s about efforts to dispossess an entire nation and erase their heritage.”
The war over hummus has been going on for a while online and in numerous publications. In September Steven Salaita claimed that “hummus is theft, not appropriation,” in The New Arab news site. “We should remember that while chefs, shopkeepers and propagandists validate the theft, the main culprit is the Israeli government which brands falafel the ‘national snack,’ the author and scholar wrote.
The US’s National Public Radio has even done a segment on “who owns the dish.”
In 2015 members of Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine disrupted a “taste of Israel” annual event at the Massachusetts university with signs claiming it was “taste of Israeli occupation.”
For now the great hummus Twitter war of 2017 is over as New Year’s approaches.