An editorial in the Gulf News (complete with the requisite stereotypical caricature of the hook-nosed, greedy Jew) accuses those crafty Zionists of stealing Arab recipes. Titled, “The undeclared war on Arab cuisine,” George S. Hishmeh writes:
My niece, Irene, called me a few days ago indignant that some of her American friends, including some Jews, keep describing typical Arab foods such as falafel, hummus and shawarma, among others, as Israeli.
She wanted to know how she can convince them this is not the case.
My first impulse was to tell my niece that Israel was almost 60 year old and these food items have obviously existed long before then. My curiosity prompted me to “google” Israeli foods. The internet yielded tens of references, including the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website which carried a feature on Israeli foods.
I couldn’t believe my eyes and wished the Arab governments would do the same, but knowing their ineptitude at explaining more life-and-death issues I doubted they will tackle this quiet Israeli attempt at usurping Arab foods. So I did not bother to check but I would like to be proven wrong.
To cite but one of many distortions and claims about the authenticity of Israeli cuisine, Joan Nathan, author of The Foods of Israel and whose writings and recipes appear on MyJewishLearning.com, maintains that falafel is “the ultimate Israeli food”.
This editorial prompted one reader to comment: “You have rightly set the records straight about the Arabic food and cuisine, but who is listening? In fact, the Jewish influence in the US is so deep rooted and intensive that feeble, trifle and insignificant people like you and I could hardly make any difference for calling spade a spade. Nevertheless, keep it up and hang on tough.”
Yes, the “Israel Lobby” has penetrated the culinary world as well. (Is nobody safe?!?)
Actually, if Hishmeh had bothered to read more of Nathan’s articles on MyJewishLearning.com, he would have seen this quote: “All cuisines are a result of the interplay of many forces–historical, sociological, agricultural–and Israeli cuisine is no different. Therefore, many foods that are typically considered ‘Israeli’ originated from the wider cuisine of the Middle East–including the popular falafel (deep-fried chick pea balls in pita) and the famous ‘Israeli salad’ of cucumbers and tomatoes in distinctively small pieces.”
(Interestingly, Nathan notes a uniquely Israeli embellishment of felafel: “[It] was made in two ways: either as it is in Egypt today, from crushed, soaked fava beans or fava beans combined with chickpeas, spices, and bulgur; or, as Yemenite Jews and the Arabs of Jerusalem did, from chickpeas alone. But favism, an inherited enzymatic deficiency occurring among some Jews–mainly those of Kurdish and Iraqi ancestry, many of whom came to Israel during the mid 1900s–proved potentially lethal, so all felafel makers in Israel ultimately stopped using fava beans, and chickpea felafel became an Israeli dish.”)
There is, in fact, a heated debate in Israel and the U.S. on whether there is really such a think as “Israeli cuisine.” I think Daniel Rogov, the restaurant critic for Haaretz, says it best:
Although several food writers (mostly American) have praised what they call “Israeli cuisine”, the truth is that the country has not developed a unique cuisine. What those visitors are praising are the varied styles of Mediterranean cookery, many of which have reached high points within Israel but none of which have come together to form what one might call a “true” cuisine.
This is not a point of shame. In fact, thinking that a country less than 100 years old might have developed a unique cuisine is somewhat silly. The more important point is that whether at private homes or at restaurants ranging in price from the ridiculously inexpensive to the outrageously dear, those who live in or visit Israel can dine very well indeed. That they may be dining on French, Moroccan, Algerian, Polish, Italian, Ethiopian, American or Turkish cuisine merely adds to the marvelous flavors of the country. Personally, I so highly value the ethnic and social inputs to the local table and I find so many options for fine and fun dining that I almost hope that those will survive and NOT make way for a more unified culinary style.
In my view, the best food in the world is always cooked in a melting pot.
Meanwhile, Hishmeh should have bigger worries to occupy himself with: Bagel restaurants are appearing in downtown Beirut. The Zionist plan for conquest through culinary expansion is well underway…
Last year, Britain’s National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) contemplated a boycott that would target Israeli academics who would not publicly dissociate themselves from Israel’s “apartheid policies”.
Professor David Steinsaltz, at Queen’s University Department of Mathematics and Statistics (and soon to be lecturing at the University of Oxford), presents this “questionnaire” [pdf] for determining the ideological purity of Israel academics.
Dear Professor, Congratulations on your selection to deliver the keynote address at the Biannual Conference for Semi-Quantitative Methods in Socioeconomic Biophysics…Before your invitation can be effected, it must clear the Political Bureau of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education. It has come to our attention that your home country is on our list of Zionist fascist oppressor states, which requires us to add a few questions to our usual formalities.
Please fill out the enclosed questionnaire, and send it back.Specialists at the Congregation for the Doctors of Philosophy will examine your conscience and decide on your fitness to be accepted as an honorary civilised human being. We apologise for any inconvenience. We presume that a scientist of your brilliance will have no difficulty satisfying this formality. Remember, every question has just one correct answer.
P.S. You will only need to submit to this formality once. After your replies have been validated, you will receive certification of your CTHN (credit to his/her nation) status, which will be valid until further Zionist atrocities require a new round of denunciations. Note that you will be expected to inform the CDP of any change in your political sentiments.
(1) Describe what you have done, personally or professionally, to undermine the apartheid State of Israel (feel free to attach extra sheets as necessary):
(2) Detail the war crimes you committed during your military service (attaching extra sheets is required):
(3) Explain in your own words why Israeli human rights violations in the Occupied Territories are more heinous than those occurring in (choose two): Tibet, Iran, Iraq, Sudan. (No details are required.)
(4) The primary cause of strife in the Middle East is:
a) British imperial meddling
b) Irreconcilable nationalist strivings
c) Population pressure
Over at Haaretz, Shmuel Rosner presents a handy round-up of the initial reviews of The Israel Lobby. His summary judgment:
Bottom line: they will not engage in the “anti-Semite-or-not” talk. They are all ready to admit that discussing the influence of the Israeli lobby can be a worthy thing to do, but are not impressed by the research done by the duo.
Indeed, I’m heartened that–as I had hoped–reviewers are (thus far) focusing more on the substance of the book than the surrounding controversy. Case in point: David Remnick at The New Yorker–after offering the obligatory tsk-tsking about the “ugly attacks” on the distinguished professors–provides this commentary:
Where many accounts identify Osama bin Laden’s primary grievances with American support of “infidel” authoritarian regimes in Islamic lands, Mearsheimer and Walt align his primary concerns with theirs: America’s unwillingness to push Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. (It doesn’t matter that Israel and the Palestinians were in peace negotiations in 1993, the year of the first attack on the World Trade Center, or that during the Camp David negotiations in 2000 bin Laden’s pilots were training in Florida.) Mearsheimer and Walt give you the sense that, if the Israelis and the Palestinians come to terms, bin Laden will return to the family construction business.
It’s a narrative that recounts every lurid report of Israeli cruelty as indisputable fact but leaves out the rise of Fatah and Palestinian terrorism before 1967; the Munich Olympics; Black September; myriad cases of suicide bombings; and other spectaculars. The narrative rightly points out the destructiveness of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and America’s reluctance to do much to curtail them, but there is scant mention of Palestinian violence or diplomatic bungling, only a recitation of the claim that, in 2000, Israel offered “a disarmed set of Bantustans under de-facto Israeli control.” (Strange that, at the time, the Saudi Prince Bandar told Yasir Arafat, “If we lose this opportunity, it is not going to be a tragedy. This is going to be a crime.”) Nor do they dwell for long on instances when the all-powerful Israel lobby failed to sway the White House, as when George H. W. Bush dragged Yitzhak Shamir to the Madrid peace conference.
Let the games begin…
In what promises to be an interesting, unfolding case, Germany’s Central Council of Jews is considering pressing charges against the Google-owned, video-sharing Web site YouTube for hosting videos that promote racial hatred and glorify war.
Deutsche Welle reports:
“I expect the prosecutor’s office, other relevant authorities and, if necessary, the German government to take action against this,” Salomon Korn, the vice president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews told the TV program, Report Mainz.
Dieter Wiefelspütz, the domestic affairs expert for Germany’s Social Democrats in parliament, agreed. “Publishing these films amounts to aiding and abetting incitement of the people,” he told Report Mainz, adding that the publication of the video clips in Germany was “scandalous.”
The clips posted on the Web site include an anti-Semitic film released by the Nazis during World War II called “The Jew Süss” and a video of the song “Ku Klux Klan” by the outlawed neo-Nazi rock group Kommando Freisler which contains racial slurs and calls for a “total white revolution.”
According to sociologist Hajo Funke, YouTube is transgressing against the basic values of liberal democracy by allowing offensive materials to be published on their site.
“This is hate speech,” Funke told Report Mainz. “Such texts are indirect incitement to murder and they have in the past — Landser texts, for instance — served as triggers for acts of murder in Germany.
It will be interesting to watch how this turns out. The only legal precedent that I’m aware of is when France’s Union of Jewish Students and the International Anti-Racism and Anti-Semitism League sued Yahoo! for allowing Nazi collectibles, including flags emblazoned with swastikas, to be sold on its auction pages. A French court ordered Yahoo! to block Internet surfers in France from auctions selling Nazi memorabilia. But, in 2001, a U.S. District Court shielded Yahoo! from the French decision, arguing “this court may not enforce a foreign order that violates the protections of the United States Constitution by chilling protected speech that occurs simultaneously within our borders.” And, in 2003, another French court overturned the prior decision, noting that Yahoo! and its auction pages did not fit the description of “justifying war crimes,” since that means “glorifying, praising or at least presenting the crimes in question favorably.”
It will be hard to argue that these YouTube clips do not glorify racism, so I anticipate a long, legal battle.
Anti-imperialist blowhard and Respect Party MP George Galloway–echoing the talking points of Arab politicians–has gone on record as being opposed to the Western Saharan independence movement from Morocco. (“I am for Morocco’s position, and I always have been”, he said. “We should not balkanise the Arab region … I am against the partition of Morocco,” affirming that “there is no room for small entities.”)
But, our favorite Talibanette and fellow Respect Party politician Yvonne Ridley has just penned an article denouncing the ongoing occupation of Western Sahara, arguing that “the Zionist and/or pro-Israeli lobby in Washington” is behind the Moroccan government’s agenda.
A harbinger of more internal divisions within the Green-Red alliance that constitutes the Respect Party?
This week marks the launch of Walt & Mearsheimer’s book-length opus on The Israel Lobby. It’s already at #219 at Amazon.com’s sales ranking–#1 for books on Israel, #2 for books on international relations. (And, here’s a fun fact: Amazon pairs the book with James Petras’ The Power of Israel in the United States. How appropriate.)
The question is: How much traction will they get out of this book? Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior editor at Commentary, opines “there is reason to think that the Walt-Mearsheimer phenomenon has already peaked,” since the book doesn’t go much beyond the original article, which has already made its mark. And over at Haaretz, Shmuel Rosner notes:”There were some who hoped that the book would redress some of [its] distortions, but the chapters I have read indicate that this didn’t happen. For instance, while performing intellectual somersaults more suitable for a circus, the authors blame the Israel lobby – and indirectly, Israel itself – for thwarting American-Syrian dialogue. This argument is made as though it wasn’t the Bush administration emphasizing that it would be best if Israel did not talk to Syria, as though it wasn’t Syrian President Bashar Assad’s activities in Lebanon and Iraq that were hindering an improvement of relations between the United States and Syria. “
Meanwhile Philip Weiss–who, I’m beginning to think, masturbates to photos of Walt & Mearsheimer–offers this prediction:
My network is buzzing about Walt and Mearsheimer’s book. I can’t tell you how excited folks are. They have the feeling that it’s High Noon at last for the Israel lobby–that the issue will be mainstreamed at last. I’m getting emails about possible appearances by W&M (the Cosmos Club in D.C.–great) and about whether they’ll be on 60 Minutes (apparently Nyet!).
This is the most important factor in the campaign against Walt and Mearsheimer: the fear that the issue might be mainstreamed in American politics. It’s one thing for the authors to hold forth in the London Review of Books, or for critics to lambaste AIPAC in the blogosphere; but getting into the American conversation is anathema. The third rail must remain the third rail! This is why neocons fought so hard against Juan Cole going to Yale. It was one thing for him to teach at the University of Michigan, but we don’t want to give these ideas imprimatur, prestige. It’s why the right is now google-bombing Trita Parsi; they don’t want this brilliant young scholar of Iran, whose new book tells people to cool their jets, to be on television. By maligning him on neocon websites, they hope to marginalize him; when a TV producer who’s thinking of scheduling him googles his name, they want her to think twice. (Whereas anyone who called for invading Iraq is perfectly acceptable…)
As a progressive & optimist, I think their side is losing, that W&M’s views are about to go much wider. I wonder who will be the Great Connecter. Who will break the silence in the American mainstream?
The Great Connecter? (shudder) It reminds me of that Simpsons episode when the neighborhood kids are up in the treehouse trying to figure out what’s up with the adults in Springfield (“OK, here’s what we’ve got: the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires, are forcing our parents to go to bed early in a fiendish plot to eliminate the meal of dinner. We’re through the looking glass, here, people…”)
But, I digress….Back to the original question: How much traction will Walt and Mearsheimer get this time around? I think it will depend, in part, on the quality of the book reviews. Last time around, I was profoundly underwhelmed by the quality of the commentary on “The Israel Lobby,” which typically fell into two categories:  The “amen” corner, which ranted about the power of AIPAC. (Such as Michael Massing’s piece in the New York Review of Books) and  People who criticized the quality of the paper, but nonetheless praised it for “daring” to break the taboo of discussing “The Lobby”–see examples here and here and here. (In other words, Walt & Mearsheimer got points for “truthiness.”)
My naive hope is that, now that the initial storm has passed, and that Walt & Mearsheimer–with a top-selling book and a $700,00 check in their pockets–can no longer wail “censorship,” we’ll see reviews that actually (gasp) focus primarily on the book itself.
Among the controversial assertions that (I hope) reviewers will address:
(1) What the hell is “The Israel Lobby”? Contrary to the writings of Massing and others, Walt and Mearsheimer didn’t write a treatise on AIPAC. They clam the Lobby (capital L) is a vast network of pro-Israel sympathizers that has infiltrated the media, government, think tanks, etc. As Marc Landy, a professor of political science at Boston College noted in an academic paper:
The ambiguity …is purposeful because it enables the authors to exaggerate both the reach and power of the Lobby. In order to brand anyone they choose as being part of the Lobby, they treat it as a loose coalition. To make it appear conspiratorial and powerful, they depict it as a tightly knit organization. When they are discussing its efforts to influence public opinion, the lobby is all-inclusive….On the other hand, when Mearsheimer and Walt are eager to show organizational muscle, they hone in on AIPAC. Shorn of the hyperbole, their depiction of AIPAC is unexceptionable. AIPAC lobbies for pro-Israeli policies, gives campaign funds to pro-Israeli congressional candidates and directs pro-Israeli public relations campaigns. This is what organizations do in American politics. But hyperbole and innuendo is precisely what Mearsheimer and Walt must resort to in order to justify the claim of AIPAC political hegemony.
(2) Will anyone examine the assertion that “The Lobby” pushed America into war to benefit Israeli interests? (Beyond the “evidence” that there are Jews in the Bush administation?)
(3) Will anyone confront the claim that Al Qaeda attacked the United States primarily because of its support for Israel?
(4) New York magazine snarkily says that the opponents of this book will be “The Anti-Defamation League; pro-Israel lobbyists and the Evangelical Christians who love them.” But will reviews give voice to the numerous Leftist critics of Walt and Mearsheimer–such as Stephen Zunes–who argue that the “Israel Lobby” is a scapegoat for a long history of U.S. transgressions in the Middle East, driven by power politics and oil?
We’ll see. Stay tuned for further developments…
According to a new poll [pdf] conducted by the Jerusalem Media & Communication Center, 81.8 percent of Palestinians blame Israel for the recent internal fighting in Gaza, while 72.3 percent blame the United States.
But, writing in Gulf News, As’ad Abdul Rahman, the Chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopedia and a former member of the PLO’s Central Council, offers a different perspective on the source of Palestinian factionalism:
The fact is that Israel’s political system is designed to accommodate its political and ethnic contradictions….In spite of being brought to believe there is nothing positive about Jews, we must take the example of Israel and review the values that govern Palestinian (and Arab) society in dealing not only with political issues, but also our day to day lives.
That would enable us underline many a flaw and heel many a wound. Divisions and differences are so abundant in our life that some of us cannot tolerate others. We forget that pluralism is actually desirable.
How long will we be content with words and slogans while the Palestinian people are being slaughtered daily by their own people in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip? How long will the mentality of exclusion and non-engagement persist? Do a few conspirators within Hamas and Fatah aim to transform us into the new aliens in this land?
We have become contaminated. Under distrust and obstinacy, which run counter to leniency and wisdom in dealing with the other for the sake of the national interest, fratricide has brought us to a temporary separation between the West Bank and Gaza, and our daily living conditions have fallen under domination of warlords, murderers, mercenaries and arms dealers.
As a result, we have found shelter in illusions, and have killed each other in the name of freedom and the homeland, and ultimately lost even more through the Hamas-Fatah fighting.
It’s a regrettable situation that urgently demands a solution. We need to probe the actual reasons of this deviation in our course and find effective and prompt solutions.
Whereas Israel was fortunate in bringing Jews together, inside and outside Israel, we have failed to unify the Palestinians inside the homeland itself.
While the Jewish state has adopted pluralism, we are still addicted to tribalism, factionalism and blind partisanship. While every corrupt leader in Israel, including its head of state, is brought to justice, we’ve rejected a necessary building process based on transparency and democracy.
And finally, whereas the Israeli public go to the street demanding the punishment of every erring official, we have refused accountability and collective examination. Jews were the “aliens” in the past, and today we are how they were. Can we accept that?
The British charity organization “War on Want,” which is ostensibly dedicated to fighting global poverty, has just published a glossy, 15-page pamphlet [pdf] outlining global strategies for “boycott, divestment and sanctions” against Israel.
According to the Jewish Chronicle (JC), some British MPs are not too happy about it:
Liverpool Riverside Labour MP Louise Ellman said the publication was “very questionable” for a charity. Ilford North Conservative MP Lee Scott found it “disgraceful. I’m going to ask the Charity Commission to look into it”.
A government spokesman said that War on Want had received backing of £1.1 million from the Department for International Development, but none of this was for projects in the Middle East.
A War on Want representative told the JC: “ We helped fund [the booklet] and we are happy to promote it.”
Um, ok…is the Department of International Development aware that money is fungible?
Anyway, the JC offers this take on the pamphlet:
Turgid text filled with references to economies driven by “transnational accumulation” and “the fusion of local capital into the global circuits of ownership” is lightened only by images of Jaffa oranges dripping (presumably Palestinian) blood. It is hard to understand how such tedious academic drivel is supposed to further the cause of peace and understanding in the Middle East — even if anyone bothered to read it.
Indeed, my “favorite” part of the pamphlet is where it encourages readers to draw lessons from the Arab League’s boycott of Israel:
The decline of the boycott in the 1980s was a reflection of the splits in pan-Arab co-operation and growing regional disunity. It also stemmed from the numerous occasions when League states continued to trade with blacklisted companies,
in line with sovereign or elite interests and to the detriment of boycott unity. Egypt’s treaty with Israel in 1978 had already sharpened the regional fractures and as pan-Arab cooperation declined the boycott gradually relaxed from the early 1980’s. Many companies that had previously stayed out of the Israeli market began to invest including Toyota and Nestlé. The Oslo Accords and normalization appeared to land a final blow to the boycott, and today bar a few exceptions, trade and links with Israel are developing across the Middle East.
Peace treaties? Normalization of relations? Oh, the tragedy! It speaks volumes about War on Want that they characterize these as negative developments for the Middle East.
A brilliant editorial in The Forward examines how to criticize Israel and simultaneously claim to be a victim of censorship:
Major Jewish organizations, including centrist as well as hard-line groups, regularly use their clout to narrow the scope of acceptable public debate on Israel. They cast their net wide, indiscriminately targeting independent-minded allies of Israel along with its sworn enemies. Many pro-Israel dissenters have walked away feeling deeply bruised and disillusioned.
Lately, however, some of Israel’s critics have started learning a few tricks themselves — and rather than enriching the conversation, they are choosing to further muddy it. There are substantial numbers of true moderates in this country who believe deeply in the need for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation. They struggle to make their voices heard in a hostile political and communal environment, and they naturally look for spokesmen who can capture the public’s attention and help unite and mobilize the peace camp — including, most recently, scholars Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. We are sympathetic to this quest for leadership, but after firsthand experience of these scholars’ definition of “opening the debate,” we feel compelled to speak up: They’re the wrong guys.
The trick follows a typical pattern. Step one: Publish your views in as provocative a manner as possible. Use words like “apartheid,” as Jimmy Carter did in his book, or paint Jewish lobbying efforts in darkly conspiratorial terms, as Walt and Mearsheimer did in a paper published last year. Step two: Dare the Jewish community to lash out at you, then whine about being victimized by bullies. Step three: Implore fair-minded liberals to line up behind you, forcing them to choose between endorsing your vision — however skewed — or becoming part of the censorship juggernaut.
We ourselves didn’t realize there was a Step Four — until this past week, when [Walt and Mearsheimer] ratcheted up their efforts. As part of the advance marketing campaign, the scholars asked to appear before a variety of Jewish audiences, including synagogues and a Jewish community center. They were, predictably, turned down.
Then the Forward was approached. We were asked to sponsor a program at which the professors would present their views, unopposed. Noting that we hadn’t thought much of the paper when it came out, we were assured that the authors had now incorporated last year’s criticisms. We asked to see a copy of the book, but we found it as sloppy as the original paper and decided not to endorse it. All of which played right into their hands, enabling them to argue that the Lobby is still working to suppress their views — with the Forward as Exhibit A.
The Forward’s opinion of their work could not have come as a surprise to them. We published our critique last year in a front-page editorial, the longest editorial in the newspaper’s history.
Most of the paper’s flaws survive in the book, but the longer format allowed the introduction of whole new stretches of substandard work. To take but one example, a new section had been added, detailing Israel’s supposed efforts to push America into confrontation with various Muslim states. One whole chapter is devoted to Syria, which is supposedly quarantined by Washington because Israel wants it so. In fact, as the Israeli press has reported extensively, Israel’s military, intelligence and political leadership has endorsed peace talks with Syria almost unanimously for more than a year, but the Bush administration has vetoed the idea because of Washington’s hostility toward Syria. But Mearsheimer and Walt deliberately chose to ignore these details, evincing the same sort of tunnel vision they claim to deplore.
“The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” is not a good book, and it does no service to those who truly crave a more robust debate in this country. Still, if the Forward had been asked to participate in a debate with the professors, we would have done so happily. Helping them to market their book was a different story. But that’s the genius of the victimhood game: If you’ve been rejected, you’ve won in the court of public opinion.