Saturday, March 12, 2011

Falafel Foo Fighters

From Al Jazeera: Two film makers, one Israeli, Oreet Ashery, one Palestinian, Larissa Sansour, produced a short film, Falafel Road, to question Israelization of falafel thereby to universalize and delegitimize Israel's supposed cultural theft of Arab culture. And where did they do their research and filming? Why, in that hub of Israel appreciation: London.

They, "... wanted to try to show the falafel taste in London. There are Israeli restaurants in London that claim they are the originator of falafel. The whole idea of the project led to complications because we had to explain why Israel wants to claim such a belonging to the land," Sansour said.

"Sansour and Ashery's project attracted an international audience, and the discussions were set up so that anyone could join them. They also issued an open call for people to send footage of their falafel experience.

"A lot of the people didn't understand what all the problems were about, but the more we talked about it the more questions they asked, and the more clear it [be]came to us how to clarify it in a better way," Sansour said. "It was never about establishing falafel's origins. This project is very much about a foreign culture coming in and colonizing the culture of the Arabs," she added.

Though I'm reluctant to add to its viewing audience, the video really needs to be seen to appreciate the depth of Israel-denial.

Israel utilized falafel to brainwash the world into accepting its legitimacy.

The project is described in Al Jazeera and, because it is written from an anti-Israel point of view and for a particular audience, the narrative makes certain parallel-universe assumptions that are rather ironic, not to mention, absurd.

Irony/absurdity number 1, wherein the film-makers question the legitimacy of Iraqi-Jewish falafel vendors:

"Although the duo predominately visited Arab-run falafel restaurants, they also encountered Israeli-run eateries. In a visit to a restaurant operated by Iraqi Jews, Sansour and Ashery talk about about their discomfort upon hearing militant Israeli music being played in the restaurant.

"This genre of music came from the era of Israeli military bands, and whilst they might sound 'innocent' to everyday Israeli listeners, they are steeped in military and Zionist overtones, and are part of the brain-washing machine that the Israeli national project is. If we had any doubts earlier as to how politicized falafel was, this experience put an end to them," writes Ashery on the Falafel Road blog.

Irony/absurdity number 2: The film-makers are accused of collaboration and normalization of Israeli-Palestinian relations and contort themselves into justifying their dreaded partnership:

"The project has elicited some criticism from Palestinians, including Sansour’s family, who have joined in the murmur of accusations of "normalization". For many Palestinians, collaborating with Israelis, however progressive their politics, is considered normalization because it implies equity and a neutral narrative between occupied Palestinians and Israelis.

"Despite the wide support for the political and academic boycott, there exists a great deal of discomfort and confusion about the tactics and intentions of anti-normalization work. While the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, PACBI, calls for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel and its institutions, it does not call for boycotting individuals. More precisely, it does not call for the boycott of Israeli individuals whose artistic and cultural work challenges the policies of the state of Israel.

"For Ashery and Sansour, who have been collaborating since 2007, the question of the boycott comes up often, both on their blog and in conversation. It is perhaps inevitable that these questions arise, given the increasing influence of the boycott movement which targets artists it deems to be collaborators.

"On the Falafel Road blog Ashery writes: "It became apparent that we can easily fall into the trap of ‘a dialogue’, of what is it like for both sides, something we were always keen to avoid, as it is not an equal situation in reality. Finding a mode of a conversation that usefully represents our position, that of a resistance to the occupation, rather than a 'dialogue based on two perspectives' is the task at hand."

"Sansour admitted that she felt Falafel Road would be easier for a Western audience to accept, without being dismissed as propaganda, if she had an Israeli working on the project. "People tend to think that such a project tends to re-enforce normalization, when, in fact, it is anything but. There is a misunderstanding of the boycott , and it is a problem for Palestinians because it becomes like a witch-hunt almost. We made a great effort in our book published in 2009 to show the opposite and even mock the concept, and we make it clear that we abide [by] the cultural boycott," Sansour said.

For added enjoyment, please refer to my earlier post about Hummus.

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