Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food Fight

Associated Press reports on yet another intractable battle that is rearing in the Middle East. This time it's a food fight, initiated in 2008 by a Lebanese economic organization, over the marketing of hummus as an Israeli delicacy:

The issue of food copyright was raised last year by the head of Lebanon's Association of Lebanese Industrialists, Fadi Abboud, when he announced plans to sue Israel to stop it from marketing hummus and other regional dishes as Israeli.

But to do that, Lebanon must formally register the product as Lebanese. The association is still in the process of collecting documents and proof supporting its claim for that purpose.

Lebanese industrialists cite, as an example, the lawsuit over feta cheese in which a European Union court ruled in 2002 the cheese must be made with Greek sheep and goats milk to bear the name feta. That ruling is only valid for products sold in the EU.

Abboud says that process took seven years and realizes Lebanon's fight with Israel is an uphill battle.

Also see: The Association of Lebanese Industrialists's Campaign to Protect OUR FOOD.

Wikipedia also tackles the thorny issue of hummus' origins:

According to Jana Gur, "While not a single Israeli will claim that this chickpea and tahini concoction is anything but Arabic, the status it has reached in Israel is unprecedented anywhere in the Middle East: In Lebanon or in Jordan, hummus is a simple morning fare or a part of a meze table. In Israel it is a religion. The best hummus restaurants, invariably owned by Arabs, are considered national treasures. Guides are dedicated to the best places to "mop up" hummus, books and essays discuss comparative virtues of fluffy Jerusalem hummus as opposed to chunky Galilean versions. ...and supermarket shelves burst with a variety of hummus products, sporting catchy names (most of them Arabic)".[33] According to Gur, "The success of certain brands of Israeli hummus abroad may have been what brought about Abboud's [Fadi Abboud, the president of the Lebanese Industrialist's Association] anger", leading him to claim that Israel has been "stealing" their country's national dishes, like hummus, falafel,tabbouleh and bab ghanouj.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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