Did you know? Palestine’s knafeh is now “Israeli” too?

Update, 5 June: Talenti pulls BuzzFeed post

Following widespread derision and dismay on social media, Talenti Gelato has pulled down its sponsored BuzzFeed post claiming that an iconic Palestinian dessert comes from “Israel.”

The company received a number of complaints, like the one on Facebook from Kamal Marwan Al-Asmar in Amman, Jordan, who urged the ice cream maker to do “a bit of research” before claiming that knafeh is “an Israeli dessert.”

The company responded: “Thank you for bringing this fact to our attention. The intent of this BuzzFeed sponsored post was to take readers on a fun trip around the world to enjoy the best desserts. It was not to offend or upset anyone. We sincerely apologize if we have. We have worked with BuzzFeed to remove the post.”

This pleased Facebook user Yazeed Ibrahim, who replied: “Thanks! now I can try your gelato with a clear conscience.”

Original post

This image is making its way around the Internet. It comes from a feature published by BuzzFeed, sponsored by the ice cream maker Talenti, purporting to promote “17 Incredible Desserts From Around The World.”

There’s mooncake from China, maple taffy from Canada, sachertorte from Austria and then “from Israel,” there’s “kanafeh.”

This is the latest example of blatant cultural appropriation of indigenous Palestinian and regional culture to add to a long list that already includes falafel, hummus, olive oil, maftoul (“Israeli couscous”) and other staples that are frequently misrepresented and promoted as Israeli, while erasing or denying their connection to the country’s indigenous people and culture.

Knafeh (it can be transliterated many ways) is perhaps the most iconic Palestinian dessert for which the occupied West Bank city of Nablus is particularly renowned.

As the Institute for Middle East Understanding explains, knafeh is “made from mild white cheese topped with a crispy layer of shredded wheat, and covered with sugar syrup.”

A tray of knafeh being prepared at Jafar Sweets in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem (Ho John Lee/Flickr)

Many Palestinians, excluded from returning to their country, have fond memories of eating knafeh at Jafar Sweets in eastern occupied Jerusalem – a place that still serves it up every day.

Knafeh is so iconically Palestinian that a few years ago, in an effort to establish legitimacy and popularity, the US-backed, appointed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad took part in a photo op in Nablus with what was claimed to be the world’s biggest knafeh.

Personally, I admit a strong pro-knafeh bias: it is delicious. But it is not “Israeli.”

Sometimes, when Palestinians react to Israeli efforts to appropriate their culture, they’re scolded: shouldn’t cultures mix and share?

Of course they should – Palestinian cuisine has its own distinct features but shares many features and influences with food from other parts of the region, including desserts (there are many regional variations of knafeh including in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey – a wonderful resource on Palestinian cuisine is Laila El-Haddad’s book The Gaza Kitchen).

Palestinians frequently see the efforts to market their culture as “Israeli” as part of Zionism’s ongoing campaign to erase them culturally and physically from the geography, history and future of Palestine.

Resisting this cultural appropriation can therefore take on great significance for Palestinians.

BuzzFeed, for its part, is a company that poses as a “news” site, but in fact sells advertising that blurs the line between editorial content and news – the word is “advertorial.”

This particularly item, as noted, comes from an ice cream maker, rather than a pro-Israel organization.

But as Joe Lo reported for The Electronic Intifada recently, pro-Israel groups are making use of BuzzFeed as well.

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Comments

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As a professional cook with an interest in food history, I have to say that to be fair, everyone from Iran to Egypt claims falafel as their own. And as a falafel fanatic, I understand why.

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Everywhere there were chickpeas, there is now falafel/tami'a... it's a pretty basic fried food, so who's to say it doesn't date back to the dawn of chickpeas (Cicer aretum)? I bet the Romans had them even.

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If Israelis make knafeh - that's not an anti-Palestinian statement or a pretense that it originated in Israel, nor is it any kind of statement whatsoever about Palestinian culture. Since Israelis see it in liberated East Jerusalem or in the internet or in the home of Jews who originate from Arabic-speaking lands - it's natural for Israelis to make it, too. Or do you think that since Palestinians also make it then automatically Israelis don't have the right to make it?

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That was not the point of the article, any one has the right to make knafeh if they know how..
But as a traditional dessert dish, its Palestinian, so claiming it to be an israeli (traditional dessert) is wrong, and can be in fact a method of eradicating the Palestinians existence and identity the point of the article..
I assume you are an israeli, and even in ur comment u avoided mentioning the name Palestine instead u called it "jews from arab speaking lands" therefore u are clearly are anti-palestinian.
The land of Palestine belongs to Palestinians whether they were Jews, Christians or Muslims.. And they always lived in peace and harmony before as a nation, enjoying their rights equally..
Israel is a zionist founded state on the expense of an existing nation, thats a fact, i am a palestinian, my family were born in Palestine, they had a home and a land, which probably belongs now to some Jewish settler from another country as urself, and we are left without a home or identity!!
This is the modern world we are not living in biblical times so u can claim someone's else land because of events that happened centuries before christ?!

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I think that by "Jews who originate from Arabic-speaking lands", she meant Jews originally coming from other Arab countries where knafeh is known.
But the "liberated East Jerusalem" is clearly an indicator of extremist nationalist views.

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I have never heard of knafeh as an Israeli food. I believe it was a mistake of the company that wrote the article. I know nobody who thinks this is true.

By "Jews from Arab-speaking lands", the original poster meant those Jews from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudia Arabia, and even Palestine. Yes, they exist(ed). They had a language, Judeo-Arabic. And they had an amazing food culture that influences Israeli food to this day.

Even if you don't live in your historical homeland, you still have an identity.

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Not about the Knafeh, about the hummus...

My grandfather immigrated (from Romania) to Palestine when he was 18. It was 1932 and he was warmly welcomed by the Palestinian community where he learnt how to make food, build, collect Sabr without being pricked...
I grew up on Hummus and Falafel and the Waraq Dawaalli that my grandmother used to make and... you name it, all of it. But I always knew those were Palestinian-Arabic foods. I was taught the history of those foods. No one ever spoke of an Israeli Cuisine, and everybody knew were the best food is to be found.
That was over 30 years ago, and today I (fearfully) wonder -

Do Israelis, now-a-days, know the origin of their food, or were the cooking-books altered as the history books are?
Is what we are seeing is propaganda meant for the international market, or for the Israelis themselves?

(BTW, I have no doubt Israelis know the Knafeh is Palestinian, but do the occupiers in Tel Aviv know about the Falafel?)

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The knafeh isn't just Palestinian. It's also made in Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. Who is actually the cultural appropriator here?

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What a strange, nonsensical comment. Knafeh originated in the Palestinian city of Nablus, originally made with Nabulsi cheese. It is popular, however, throughout the Levant and even in Egypt, with variations in each country. For example, in Lebanon, I think they eat it in bread. Anyway, if you're trying to compare Israel with these Arab countries, your comparison is so beyond flawed. We Arabs share the same culture, more or less. Israel is the invader of our land and the killer of our people, so it's extremely offensive to us for them to claim our food/culture as their own.

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If palestine was a land without inhabitant who taught Israelis about kunafah and nabulsi cheese?

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"Knafeh is a dessert specialty of the Levant, especially in Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Syria and northern Egypt. "

Someone better stop Lebanon and Jordan from appropriating Palestinian culture!

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Zionist settlers are invaders in the ME, and when they are told so, sometimes they try to pretend that they are not.
ME people could have their common heritage and no one is harmed by it, colonialist settlers, on the other hand, are robbers of natives' land, water and even the food.

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Though ur being sarcastic, and your comment seem to carry a bit of insult, but the Palestinian, lebanese and mainly the levant culture and cuisine is the same, but as a resident of lebanon, which is famous for knafeh as well, infact in winter times people in lebanon enjoy it in a sandwich made with special bread while taking a stroll down the corniche... Having said that, still, whenever the word knafeh is mentioned ' Nablus' comes to mind.
Not to mention that Palestinians moved to neighbouring countries (lebanon, jordan, syria)
So if u're not lebanese, or Jordanian Mr. Matt then u do not know what ur talking about, and with due respect "you're trying to be funny comments" just makes u look like a completely ignorant jackass..

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Neither Jordan nor Lebanon has claimed Knafeh is Jordanian or Lebanese ,its a well known fact that its Palestinian and as Ali said its an iconic Palestinian dessert !
Only cultureless people resort to culture theft....pathetic

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In the program Cooking in the Danger Zone (BBC), Gil Hovav, a famous Israeli foood journalist is interviewed:
Question: But is humous originally Jewish or Arabic?
Gil Hovav: Of course it’s Arabic. Humous is Arabic. Falafel, our national dish, our national Israeli dish, is completely Arabic and this salad that we call an Israeli Salad, actually it’s an Arab salad, Palestinian salad. So, we sort of robbed them of everything.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared...

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The original add on BuzzFeed was removed because of the pressure created by the community of activists. I received the following email from Talenti (and I bet so did thousands others who objected to listing Knafeh as an Israeli food. Here is Talenti's message to me (I checked the original BuzzFeed article and it has been certainly removed)--Good job everyone from reporting to sprinting to action:

Dear Samer,

Thank you for reaching out and bringing this to our attention. The intent with this BuzzFeed sponsored post was to take readers on a fun trip around the world to enjoy the best desserts. It was not to offend or upset anyone. We sincerely apologize if we have. We are working with BuzzFeed to remove the post altogether.

Warmest Wishes,
Kelly

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"Halas, you can nationalise our Knafeh, just return the refugees!"

אחרי שגנבנו את הפלפל וניסינו לגנוב את החומוס קטן עלינו כנאפה.או במילים אחרות האנשים עזבו את הבתים שלהם כשהכנאפה עוד נשאר חם על השולחן
Translates into-
"After we stole the Falafel and tried stealing the Hummus the Kanfeh is a piece of cake. In other words, the people left their homes and the Knafeh was still hot on the table."

(Thank you for the robbed authors)

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Knafeh is an extremely sweet dessert. I had it in Amman, Jordan. No matter from where this dish belong it, it is seriously an asset and not found anywhere else. I searched for it in Pakistan but didn't get to taste the same as I did in Amman, Jordan.

I am not being biased but it was giving an Arabic feel while eating this delicious dessert. Perhaps, its a sweet dish and should work as sweetener between the two parties. Therefore, it is a time to share sweetness and eradicate the bitterness.

Let Knafeh be the disf of Friendship and Joining Hands

Uzair from Pakistan

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I live in Jaffa, Israel. Some may argue it is home to the world's best knafeh.

Some say the world's best haggis is from Scotland, not Caledonia. The best poutine is from Canada, not Acadia.

The names of countries will come and they will go. I think that this argument and entire post of food belonging to Palestinians is ridiculous.

Food traditions cannot be owned by anyone, and they shouldn't be. The only thing anyone can own is just good secret recipes or restaurants.

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Just to support your comment. We have numerous local Pizza chain in Pakistan therefore it cannot be tagged as only a dish from Italy.

Its not the name that matters, its the taste that differentiate from one another.

We have some flavours in Pizza which you can never find out in Italy or in any part of the world as those flavours are customized and made keeping in mind the taste preference of the Pakistani market.

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Franz Fanon is rolling in his grave as the Palestinian people self-colonize in Ramallah with this cruel organ of the foreign invader, Krusty's Krab Shack. I am told that the charismatic leader of this vicious cultural incursion, a certain SpongeBob Squarepants, has cleverly partnered with the oppressed Palestinian people (no doubt by force and exploitation) to propagate the false idea that lobster is a native dish of the Palestinian people. It is not! Do not let the juicy, butter-soaked morsels of crustacean oppression (so vile that even Jews will not eat it because lobster is ritually unclean) pass the innocent lips of your children! My heart aches at the garlicky genocide that this illegal, culinary colonial settlement portends for the people of Ramallah! After reading of your noble action of defending the kanafeh from the invaders, I wonder if the Krab Shack is assisting the colonizers in that mendacious effort as well? Arabs: don't become an Uncle Tom! Take back what is yours from the Krab! Hide the kanafeh!

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.