(February 6, 2019 / JNS) The kitchen can be a dangerous place. Sharp knives. Hot pots and pans. Scalding water.
I have previously blogged on how the Arabs-called-Palestinians have turned cuisine into a major issue of ethnic and national identity within the context of the Arab conflict with Israel and Zionism. They have put Palestine on a plate.
And now, I see that in The New York Times, this matter has morphed into a sub-issue I’ll call “cuisine geography.”
Palestinian food can be sorted into three categories, she explained: There is the bread- and meat-based cooking of the West Bank, which includes East Jerusalem and stretches to the Jordan River. The food of the Galilee, which sits inside Israel and includes cities like Nazareth, closely resembles Levantine cuisine, with its tabbouleh and kibbeh. The cooking of the Gaza Strip, a dense patch bordering Egypt, is largely fish-based and fiery.
First of all, the author of the cookbook noted above, Chef Kalla, would be upset that maqloobeh did not earn a mention among those highlights (she also got into Haaretz). Another matter is the exclusion of Jordan. After all, not only is it part of “historic Palestine,” but either 50 percent or two-thirds of its population is nominally “Palestinian” (we’ll skip the whole issue of Southern Syrians for now but see below).
Most importantly, according to this “Palestine-on-a-Plate” geographic cuisine, the borders of “Palestine” seem to be defined as what one cooks. And food even becomes soothing: “Seeing the physical apparatus of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank was very hard to witness,” [Yasmin Khan] said. She found that food soothed the frenzy in her mind.
Of course, on the other hand, maybe the food could cause a frenzy.
I could see how the desire of the Arabs-called-Palestinians to eradicate Israel, erase the Jewish people’s national history in the Land of Israel and deny any Jewish cultural attachment to the land could be framed as simply a matter of hunger.
One who did use a similar imagery was Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
On Feb. 11, 1937, Jabotinsky testified in London (he had been banned from Mandate Palestine since January 1930) before the Peel Commission investigating the outbreak of the real First Intifada during 1936. Jabotinsky famously said:
“When we hear the Arab claim confronted with the Jewish claim—I fully understand that any minority would prefer to be a majority: it is quite understandable that the Arabs of Palestine would also prefer Palestine to be the Arab State No. 4, No. 5, or No. 6—that I quite understand but when the Arab claim is confronted with our Jewish demand to be saved, it is like the claims of appetite versus the claims of starvation.”
“If you speak of hardships to individual Arabs, I deny it; but if you suggest disappointment of the Palestinian Arabs as a whole with the prospect of a country they call Palestine, which they think is one of their national states, becoming a Jewish state, I quite admit there is disappointment. And if the Syrian Government thinks there should be five or six and not only” four Arab States, so that the Arab Confederation whatever it be called—may one day include Palestine too, then of course, it is a disappointment. I never denied it. But I said that is the claim of appetite as confronted with our claim of starvation and I think that a claim of appetite versus starvation has no standing whatever. They really demand ‘more.’ ”
The Arabs demand more?
In what way?
Jabotinsky: They have many States already.
I am talking of the Palestinian Arab. I am not concerned with the Arab in Iraq.
Jabotinsky: You mentioned Syria.
To my point above as to the exclusion of Jordan, Jabotinsky, in his testimony, insisted that Palestine encompassed the area on both sides of the Jordan River:
the term “ Palestine,” when I employ it, will mean the area on both sides of the Jordan, the area mentioned in the original Palestine Mandate.
So the politics of cuisine seem to have deep historical roots in the struggle between Jews and Arabs.
Let us hope the correct ingredients, proper seasoning and no overcooking may, some day, bring us a diplomatic dish we can all partake in.
Yisrael Medad is an American-Israeli journalist and commentator.