Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Politics of Falafel and Hummus

I read recently that Israel haters who are promoting boycotts and other actions are campaigning against the Sabra brand of hummus. They accuse its American manufacturers of donating money to Israeli military efforts. This is part of a broader campaign on college campuses which combines old-fashioned antisemitism with modern Israel-baiting.

  • At Princeton, a student referendum to ban Sabra hummus failed with 1,014 students against and 699 students voting for the referendum.
  • At DePaul University in Chicago, Sabra hummus was removed from the campus dining table at the request of the anti-Israel groups, but last week the school requested that their food service reinstate its sale.
The New York Times, reporting on these efforts, quoted Michael Kotzin, of the Jewish United Fund:
“As trivial as the determination of what hummus to serve to university students might seem, there are serious ramifications to this issue. It is clear that this action, following on earlier boycotts of Israeli culture and Israeli academics around the world, is but one component of a global assault on the legitimacy of the State of Israel itself.”
A few years ago, there were flaps over falafel. A false but widely repeated news story stated that the FBI was tracking falafel stands because they were a hotbed of radical terrorism. The FBI website responded with denial: "We at the FBI were surprised to read about a supposed FBI program to monitor the sales of Middle Eastern food products in the San Francisco Bay area in support of counterterrorism intelligence gathering."No one in the FBI had heard of this supposed endeavor, which was widely covered in the press. (I wrote about it in more detail here.)

Further, there's an ongoing dispute over who invented falafel and which Middle Eastern country owns hummus. In a world of so much bad will, even mashed chick peas (fried or dipped) can become completely political.

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