This is the story of the Harvard Business School Israeli Mezze Station in three levels illustrated by my three posts: 1) the menu and the indignation, 2) Harvard’s response and Israel’s aggression and 3) my response to Israeli aggression.
1) The Menu and the Indignation:
Every day the Harvard Business School dining room cooks up one of their several food stations with national food from one of the countries represented by their student body. It is their way of appreciating the multiculturalism at the school, and it is actually very nice. That last week of October 2012, it was Israel’s turn. On that fateful October 28th 2012, an Egyptian friend of mine from my days at Harvard, “Mohamed El Dahshan”, was having lunch at the awesome HBS dining room, and in a state of amused disappointment, he snapped a picture of the “Israeli Mezze Station” menu and posted it on his Facebook page with a caption saying “Hilarious. So according to the Harvard Business School dining room, couscous, fattoush, zaatar, harrissa, tahini, and of course hommus are israeli foods. Love it.”
Being one of his friends online, I saw his photograph and frowned and frowned some more. I then told Mohamed that I was going to take his picture and write something about it because I really felt that such a menu encompassed a “multi-cultural and multi-religious f*ck you” in the face of all the Middle East as I liked to put it. So within half an hour, I had posted my response to the Israeli Mezze Station on my Facebook wall and tagged some of my Arab friends from Harvard.
Overnight, my post got 1,000 likes. Within two weeks, my post had gathered more than 5,000 likes, 3,900 shares and more than 300 comments and had spilled over to the media, which is a step up from my record of 12 likes on my post sharing my appreciation for a laughing chimpanzee. The Jerusalem Post covered it, Al Arabiya covered it, L’Orient-Le Jour covered it and named me “Woman of the Week” (imagine if there was a typo there, like woman of the weak), The Harbus covered it, dozens of blogs covered it, I made a TV appearance on the popular Lebanese TV talk show “Men El Ekhir” and my post started circulating through email as I seemed to have made many, many Middle Easterners happy and I was a happy girl.
2) Harvard’s Response and My Second Post:
I then wrote a follow-up post announcing what Harvard’s response was, and it went viral as well. I acknowledged all the different actors in this incredible story, and I replied to some of the Israelis who contended the overwhelming international opinion that this menu is not Israeli.
3) Aggressive Israeli Reactions and my Response to them:
4) Moral of the Story: Is Food Really this Important?
It is not about the identity of food per se, it is about identity, full stop. Food has been used as the medium because, for a start, it is not controversial and was easy to vindicate.
The ramifications of this issue are a consequence of a time and space continuum spanning many ages of Middle Eastern/Arab frustration. Defending the food itself is about defending the identity that comes with being an Arab or Middle Eastern in an Israeli-dominated historical setting. That setting has dictated a history whereby Middle Eastern people have consistently felt deprived of ownership by the Israelis time and time and time again, with no vindictive rights. Lands, identity, an entire nation, as well as the concept of “self-defense” have all been seized and forcefully reformulated to fit a new Israeli dogma at the expense of Arab identity, with no pain validation on any level. Everything was and still is permitted to the Israelis. Painfully enough for the Middle Eastern peoples, these painful issues are deemed “debatable” by the world, meaning no matter how blatantly illegal some events were, the world decided that it is a “debate” since it’s not “clear” who’s right and who’s wrong. And resultantly, the Arabs felt that they were never dealt a strong hand, it was loss, after loss, after loss. Indeed, when it comes to the controversial issues of land occupation and right of return and right of defense etc, a “bottom line” is impossible to reach; at the stage we are at today, the world has decided that neither the Arabs nor the Israelis are 100% right about any of the above mentioned topics. Indeed, there will always be twofold valid analysis, surely with unequal weight…. EXCEPT FOR FOOD.
Thanks to linguistics and terminologies, etymologies and language, food is an easy debate to win almost because there should be no debate. Some Israelis/friends of Israel have tried to use a few arguments saying that the food is as “Israeli” as it is “Arab”, but I answered them in my second post saying that basically, no… it’s not because Israel is a new, artificial state that was formed very recently from an influx of foreign immigrants who mostly eat okroshka, hamburgers and gnocchi. There simply is a specific timeframe which accompanies the identity of “Israel”, and there is another timeframe that accompanies the origins of our foods and their names, and it is very clear that they simply do not match.
The Links to all the Media Covering the Israeli Mezze Station Story:
Make sure you press “SEE MORE” to see my entire text.