United Airlines mag in contortions over Palestinian food…

I’m in Paris. I brought Laila el-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt’s fabulous book The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey here, to the Paris International Cookbook Fair. So what do I discover in the seatback pocket on my flight over from Washington? A multi-page series in the United Airlines seatback mag that’s about the “wonderful” food scene in Jerusalem.

Hilariously (or not, depending on your POV), it says this

what’s long been considered Israeli food– hummus, falafel, mixed grilled meats, fresh chopped salads– is in fact cuisine borrowed from the local Levantines.

These dishes have “long” been considered Israeli food… By whom? And for how long? Longer than, say, 65 years?

And then are those mysterious “local Levantines”. There are a number of references to these strange creatures throughout the article, which was written by someone called Wendell Steavenson. But zero references to Palestinians or even “Arabs”… just denatured, completely de-cultured “Levantines”.

I could understand, maybe, an Israeli magazine publishing something parochial and silly like this. But the seatback mag of a major American airline? And one that flies to large numbers of destinations around the world– including, more than a dozen in Arab countries? Really, United Airlines, this is pathetic.

One thought on “United Airlines mag in contortions over Palestinian food…”

  1. An Israeli magazine would likely not be so parochial as you describe of the airline magazine. Most Israelis are fully aware of the cultural diffusion and sharing and adopting that “Israeli” food represents, including Arabic origins. It is, however, important to remember that many Jews. too, have lived a continuous existence in the Middle East since long before the exile enforced by the Roman Empire after decades of Jewish resistance to Roman rule. Not all Jews actually left ancient Judea (prior to being named Palestine by the Romans, recalling the “Philistines” as a way to rub salt into the Jewish wounds), and not all Jews lived in Judea at the time. Many lived in what is now Iraq, Iran, Yemen, North Africa, etc. Jews of the region have long shared and cross-pollinated their cuisines with those of their Arab and North African neighbors. The nearly one million Jews thrown forcibly out of Arab nations in the late 1940’s and 1950’s
    brought many of these foods to the Ashkenzim of Israel. They and the Yemenite Jews who’d migrated into Jewish portions of historical Palestine as early as the 1920’s.

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