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The idea of cultural appropriation never made much sense, but the Palestinians have finally taken it beyond ridiculous. At a time when the war between Israel and the Palestinians seems closer than ever, Palestinians are complaining about how Israel ‘stole’ their food. They mean to say ‘appropriated’ but ‘stole’ has so much more power, don’t you think?
A Washington Post story, called “Should White Chefs Sell Burritos?” reports on the growing chorus of accusations of “cultural appropriation” against Portland, Oregon chefs who are making their fortunes cooking foods that have come from other cultures. But consider this: If the idea of “cultural appropriation” is really a valid premise, then Asians should not be eating hotdogs, black people should not be seen eating pizza or sushi, and white people should never eat Chinese food or fried chicken. By the same token, hot dogs and hamburgers, long time American favorites, should not, by this logic, be sold in Asia, while bagels and gefilte fish should only be sold to Jews, and Latino taco vendors should only sell to other Latinos.
Rubbish! The term “cultural appropriation” is absurd on its face. For as long as people have been moving around the world, they have been adopting and adapting the local foods as part of their culture in their new homes. Which brings me to the story of the Palestinians and their ‘stolen’ food.
Jews have been living in the land of Israel for thousands of years. They should not have to apologize for eating the indigenous food of the region. They have broken bread with their Arab neighbors, and shared their cuisine with them for centuries.
Nevertheless, one of the most recent complaints made by Palestinians, right alongside the accusations of “occupation”, “apartheid”, and “genocide”, is that the Israelis stole their food. Falafel, shawarma, shakshouka, kibbeh, hummous, pita, and couscous, all of these and more (claim the Palestinians) were stolen from them by the Israelis and are now considered ‘Israeli food’.
Well, as ridiculous and frankly trivial as this supposed ‘cultural appropriation’ sounds to the outsider, a quick look at the origins of some of these foods makes their claims even more absurd.
Shawarma, for example, was not invented by the Palestinians (who by the way, it could be argued, invented themselves, but that is a subject for another article), was actually invented in the 19th century in Turkey. Shawarma, which is layers of meat rotating on a vertical spit, is an Arabic rendering of a Turkish word which means ‘turning’. An almost identical food that is popular in Western countries is the Greek “gyros” (properly pronounced ‘heros”), which also refers to ‘turning’. So the origins of this food goes far beyond the history and culture of the Palestinians.
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