Rachael Ray, the celebrity chef, and talk show host would seem to be the last person to get embroiled in Middle East politics. However, a tweet she made announcing “Holiday Feast Highlights - Israeli nite” has caused fury among Arab and Palestinian activists.

A site called the Electronic Intifada claimed that all of the Israeli dishes were “stolen” from the Palestinians.

James Zogby, the co-founder of the American Arab Institute and brother of the pollster John Zogby, went even further.

The truth about Israeli Cuisine and its origins are a little more complicated than Zogby, and anti-Israeli activists imagine.

What is Israeli cuisine?

According to a piece in My Jewish Learning, Israeli cuisine, which has started to become popular worldwide, is derived from a variety of influences, some of them going back to biblical times, long before the modern states of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, or the rise of Palestinian nationalism.

Hummus, for instance, is mentioned in the Old Testament as something that Boaz offered Ruth when they met in Bethlehem. A lot of Israeli cooking is inspired by traditional dishes from the Levant, but also has influences from Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean (Greece, Italy, and so on) and other regions of the world. Israel is a multicultural society that has borrowed foods from around the world and has created something unique.

What is Zogby complaining about?

Zogby, and at Christmas, not only used a curse word but also the heated word “genocide” to refer to another country’s cuisine. He is the son of a Lebanese immigrant, a Roman Catholic, and an American citizen. Why he should concern himself about how another country prepares its dinner would seem odd if one did not know the language of social justice warriors and anti-Israel activists.

Cultural appropriation” is the newest made up sin from the left that describes the adoption of some aspects from one ethnic culture by someone belonging to another. Food, in particular, has become a political battleground, as two ladies from Portland, Oregon found out when they dared to make tortillas while Caucasian.

Zogby, in his zeal to attack Israel, with which he seems to have some kind of animas, and an inoffensive celebrity chef, was incorrect about the origins of Israeli cuisine. The Israelis no more “stole” their cooking traditions from their Arab neighbors than people from Texas “stole” barbecue from people in the Carolinas. Culture is not something that is “owned” or “appropriated.” Culture, especially food, is something that is shared, morphs, and evolves as creative people makes variations.

Both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs can enjoy similar types of food and, if only people like Zogby can allow it, rejoice in a shared tradition that should unite and not divide.

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