Ahmed Abdelmageed, assistant dean of experiential education and community engagement at Manchester University's College of Pharmacy, is a board member with the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace.
Chickpeas soaked overnight, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt mixed and prepared the right way make a delicious plate known across the globe as hummus. (To my fellow Americans, please note that pumpkin spice is not in any way, shape or form one of the ingredients).
Hummus, a staple dish in almost every Middle Eastern household, has been claimed by many nations as “their” dish. People will stake their claim of original ownership as they share a delectable plate of it with you, but they will never share their secret ingredient.
This mostly friendly feud over ownership of a food that is really owned by none has become a playful “food wars” quip. Take, for example, “Hummus! The Movie,” described by the Israel Film Festival on YouTube: “In 'Hummus! The Movie' we are introduced to three main characters – a hard-working Muslim woman, an ever-smiling Jew and a young Christian Arab who, despite their historical and cultural differences, have one thing in common ... a passionate love of hummus!”
Sounds playful and fun, right? A fresh breath of air in this Arab-Israeli “conflict.”
But this seemingly innocuous, friendly feud over a dish is not really all that innocent. While some may get worked up about others culturally appropriating what they feel is rightfully theirs, most miss the more insidious effect of such acts of propaganda.
The video is very calculated and well produced to give the viewer the impression, under the guise of a seemingly harmless cultural/religious feud, that Israel is a pluralistic, democratic society. It's saying, “Look, we have Jews, Christians and Muslims living alongside each other and having a fun, friendly dispute over food.” Meanwhile, every 30 seconds you get a flash of a map with the word “Israel” in bold over a region that extends past the boundaries of current-day Israel. Any mention of Palestinians is incidental and unremarkable, referred to as Arabs. Arabic is white noise in the background as even the Muslim Arab woman is speaking Hebrew.
My issue is not appropriation of hummus. My issue is that the movie continues with a narrative that is untrue and, unfortunately, widely accepted in western societies. A narrative that portrays Israel as a beacon of democracy in the Mideast. Meanwhile, Israeli bulldozers are razing Palestinian homes to make room for settlements, and Israeli forces, supported with $3.9 billion in annual aid from the U.S., are beating peaceful protesters for simply demanding freedom.
Such hasbara (propaganda) is not limited to the world of food. And Israel has lately been riding the coattails of interfaith activities to further promote its fictitious image of tolerance and coexistence.
Take, for example, the latest event making the rounds in the U.S.: a supposed “multicultural women's empowerment program” where 12 Israeli women – Jewish, Muslim and Christian – share how they discovered they have much more in common living in western Galilee. This is yet another attempt to divert attention from Israel's atrocities on the ground – a government that subjects millions of Palestinians, original inhabitants of the land, to the daily humiliation of military checkpoints and random curfews. The same government often prevents congregants from attending weekly Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque. The same government has killed thousands and injured many more.
This faithwashing of the occupation is intended to dupe us into believing a deceptive image of interfaith coexistence on the same land from which the Israeli government has driven its original inhabitants, where they truly coexisted peacefully. Many Muslims have unfortunately fallen prey to this elaborate scheme (the event that took place in Fort Wayne was co-sponsored by a local Muslim organization that did not do its due diligence).
Israel's occupation of the mind is far more dangerous than its usurping of land. Its conflation of Judaism and Zionism and constant, tireless barrage of a skewed narrative is a ploy to cover up and an attempt to scrub all the blood it's spilled over the past 70 years.
This intentional sanitization of an ugly occupation further victimizes its victims and we cannot – must not – stay silent in the face of such injustice.