Following are excerpts from two TV programs about a "Hummus war" against Israel waged by the Lebanese Association of Industrialists. The programs aired on Al-Jazeera TV and Al-Manar TV on October 8, 2008.
Al-Jazeera TV, October 8, 2008
Reporter: It's lunch time. Ali, the head chef in a Beirut restaurant, is busy preparing the most important dish on the menu – the tabouli salad. It's one of the basic traditional dishes in Lebanese cuisine – so much so that there are even people in Lebanon who sing about the tabouli and its recipe: "Let's take some bulgur, some oil, and some lettuce. Let's take some mint, some onion, and some spices – tomato, parsley, salt, and a little..." But now the tabouli is facing the threat of being stolen by Israel, which is claiming that along with some other dishes, the tabouli is part of the Israeli tradition.
Fadi Abboud, Head of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists: It's no longer just falafel – it's the tabouli, the hummus, the baba ghanoush, the labaneh, the kishek, the pomegranate syrup, and the fried cauliflower...
Reporter: These claims have led the Association of Lebanese Industrialists to go into action. It has begun a campaign to prove that these dishes are part of Arab cuisine – not necessarily Lebanese cuisine – so that Israel will not continue to try to steal them.
Fadi Abboud: We have an ongoing dialogue as to whether the falafel is Lebanese, Syrian, or Palestinian, but it should be clear that the dispute is not among us Arabs. I have no problem with the falafel being Palestinian or Lebanese. My problem is if someone claims that the falafel is Israeli.
Reporter: Once the Arab identity of these dishes is established, warnings will be sent to companies that use this Arab name, and if they do not heed these warnings, the court will have the final say.
The battle will not be an easy one, but it is an intrinsic part of the conflict over land, history, and identity. Lebanon will wage this battle, only this time, in court.
Interviewer: What is the danger in what Israel is doing?
Fadi Abboud: The danger is not restricted to the issue of stealing the names and recipes. The danger lies in the organized theft carried out by Israel – not just of our lands, but also of our history, our traditions, our architecture, poetry, singing, music, and everything that is Arab in this region. The world considers everything bad that comes from Arab countries to be Arab, and everything good that comes from this region to be Israeli. Obviously, this is a distortion of the truth.
When we read that hummus is a traditional Israeli dish, we know that this information is wrong. The hummus is not Israeli. There are Arab Jews who have lived in Palestine for centuries, and they eat the same food as other Arabs. But to call hummus a traditional Israeli dish constitutes aggression. Nowadays, nobody in New York City dares to even question the Israeli identity of the falafel. Such a question is unacceptable, because in America, the falafel is considered an Israeli dish.
Al-Manar TV, October 8, 2008:
Reporter: This is war – an Israeli war against Lebanon, but of a different kind. This is a war against the country that succeeded – by means of its resistance, its army, and its people – to defeat the most ferocious army in the world. Following its defeats on the battlefield, Israel has fled to the kitchen.
Believe it or not, oh Lebanese, what you considered to be an axiom of our national cuisine has become Israeli. Just like that, without any warning, they turned hummus – especially spiced hummus – into a traditional Israeli dish. As for the tabouli, the backbone of Lebanese cuisine, and the spearhead on our tables – it too has become Israeli. But the story does not end here. The Israeli war against our cuisine has also reached the falafel, the "lineage" of which has been in dispute among the Arabs. Maybe they did not anticipate the enemy including it in what it considers to be its own cuisine. But the Israeli desire to accomplish some culinary achievement has gone beyond any acceptable norm or logic.