We — Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — are writing in regards to Tufts Friends of Israel’s (FOI) Taste of Israel event planned for today, Oct. 27. According to the Facebook event, Taste of Israel is meant to “showcase the foods that make up Israel and the cultures it represents.” SJP considers this event to be both an erasure of Palestinian history and culture as well as an intentional delinking of Israeli culture from the ongoing military occupation of Palestine. Israel’s continual colonization of Palestine goes beyond the conquest of land and the military occupation; it encompasses culture — notably cuisine — that works to erase and appropriate Palestinians and Palestinian land.
The event is not advertised as being political, but when Israel is currently occupying Palestine and affecting its people, while erasing Palestinian history and resistance, the power dynamics between Israel and Palestine cannot be ignored. An event like Taste of Israel can often be the first event many new students (and prospective students) are exposed to about Israel and Palestine. To mask the complex history and military occupation of Palestine in a food and culture event without acknowledging the occupation is misleading and evasive.
Last year, at the FOI Taste of Israel event, we offered chocolate to students with facts attached about the Israeli occupation, describing the amount of Palestinian farmland destroyed by illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the detrimental effects of the Israeli blockade on Gaza’s economic and social life. We challenge FOI to explore and acknowledge that Palestinian history and culture, as well as the continued military occupation and settler colonialism in Palestine, are inherently linked to the cuisines presented at this event. Culture is not apolitical, and neither is food. FOI’s choice to claim historically Palestinian/Arab foods as Israeli is a form of cultural colonialism. As stated in The National, critiques of Israeli claims to Palestinian/Arab foods are “not about petty claims and counterclaims, rather, the story is one of colonial, cultural appropriation and resistance to those attempts.”
We invite students who are thinking about attending FOI’s Taste of Israel event to instead come with members of SJP to a movie as part of the annual Boston Palestine Film Festival at the Somerville Theater tonight (Thursday, Oct. 27) at 7 p.m. The film, “Oriented,” “follows the lives of three gay Palestinian friends confronting their national and sexual identities.”
Students for Justice in Palestine does not think that this film is perfect. The lives and experiences of the three friends whose stories are told in the film do not represent the narratives of all queer Palestinians (nor does it claim to). Still, this film pushes the audience to be critical of viewing Tel Aviv as the “gay haven” it is often seen as for queer Palestinians.
We invite students who are thinking about going to Friends of Israel’s Taste of Israel event to join us in going to this movie instead, and to critically engage with the film. If you do decide to attend the Taste of Israel event, we encourage you to be critical about whose food is offered and which narratives are presented and ignored.
Editor’s note: If you would like to send your response or make an op-ed contribution to the Opinion section, please email us at [email protected] The Opinion section looks forward to hearing from you.