Hummus Wars: All We Are Saying Is Give Chickpeas a Chance

The first time I was accused of "stealing food" was back in the late 1980s. It was World Fair week on my Boston-based college campus, and representatives from several of the other Middle Eastern student groups accused us, the Israelis, of "stealing" their national food and claiming it as our own. That food was, of course, hummus, and we, of course, were not impressed by their position. As I recall, we thought it was, in fact, a rather preposterous accusation, and I'd like to think we let them know we thought so.

And here we are in 2009, where hummus libel is an issue once again. There was great joy in Lebanon recently as a group of Lebanese chefs broke the world record for making the largest plate of hummus, and rightly so. After all, it isn't everyday that Guinness world records are broken, especially records of such unique, tasty distinction. What made this record-breaking moment so special, though, what really made the organizers happy, was that not only had they made history, but by doing so, they'd emerged victorious and brought pride to Lebanon. And what was it, exactly, that made this particular achievement so sweet, do you ask? It's quite simple, really. The previous world record for creating the largest plate of hummus was held by a group in Israel.

Reading the online Arab press coverage of the event (and the following day's tabouleh salad followup) and even some of the mainstream media coverage, one would think that a battle no less important than the summer of 2006's Second Lebanon War had been hard-fought and won, that the innocent little chickpea in all its spreadable glory had suddenly become the latest secret weapon in the ongoing struggle against the "Zionist entity." Here was yet another opportunity for victory against the enemy, and clearly an evil one at that. This was an enemy whose cunning and deceit obviously knew no bounds, for not only have they occupied land, but they have also occupied a plate. And seriously, isn't it just a tad disturbing to think that a legume is being cynically exploited for political gain?