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October 03, 2013

Hummus Envy


Hummus with minimal topping

Hummus (the word has a few alternative English spellings) is a popular food dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas generally blended with tahini (a thick paste made of ground sesame seeds), olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Hummus originated in the Middle East and the word itself comes from either the Arabic word for chickpea or the contemporary Hebrew word for chickpea.

Whose hummus?

An otherwise mouth-watering (includes full color photos), apparently innocuous article,“Jerusalem’s Hottest Hummus,” in the Wall Street Journal’s weekend Sept. 21-22, 2013 edition (Adventure & Travel section), contains this little gem of a paragraph by the article’s author, Nicolas Brulliard, an independent journalist based in Jerusalem:

Of course, in this region every cultural marker is a point of contention in some respect. Israel, a nation of Jewish immigrants who bring along their own culinary traditions, has adopted hummus as a de facto national dish. Many Palestinians view that development as yet another example of colonial overreach.

Brulliard’s (colonial overreach) last sentence above is gratuitous. Europeans eat a lot of potatoes, which originated in the New World of the Western Hemisphere. Are the chips of British fish 'n chips "imperialist"? Palestinian and other Arabs have availed themselves of many Israeli innovations, including a variety of irrigation techniques. Do Israelis complain of "misappropriation"? Why mention "colonial overreach" here, especially when modern Jewish settlement in Israel marks not a colonial entrprise but an indigenous people's return?

One notes that the author has previously made snide jabs at Israel; for example, here where he wrote, “Livni has long been viewed as an honest and principled political figure – somewhat of an oddity in Israel's political landscape ...” Further, his writings don’t seem to contain such innuendo aimed at Arabs or others.

As to the charge that Israelis unjustifiably claim hummus as a national dish, another example of colonialism, nonsense!

Hummus had been common food for at least the more than half of the Israeli population (and their Israeli-born descendants) that arrived from Arab countries in large numbers beginning in 1948-49. These Jews may have lost their homes and neighborhoods when forced to flee by their fellow (Muslim Arab) countrymen but they didn’t lose their taste for their beloved native hummus.

Mr. Brulliard, there’s plenty of fuel stoking the anti-Israel propaganda fire without adding hummus, which, in fact, burns poorly if at all. B'te avon! (Good appetite!).

Posted by MK at October 3, 2013 05:46 PM


Chickpeas are mentioned in the Bible and it's ridiculous to suppose that nobody thought of mashing them up until modern times. There's even a Biblical reference to a dip eaten with bread (hhometz) that sounds to me as if it might actually be a reference to hummus.

Posted by: Joe in Australia at October 3, 2013 11:52 PM

Obviously, Israel bashers have developed their own vocabulary. Which makes sense since they've developed their own history. Which is perfect since they've created their own people.

Israel bashers live in a fantasy world which isn't too bright. In fact, it's downright absurd and racist.

Staying classy is a difficult thing to accomplish when one can't even provide a counterproposal to a peace treaty that would have ended the world's self-proclaimed Most Important Battle Ever, but I digress.

Posted by: Asher Garber at October 4, 2013 10:52 AM

I lived many years in China and i wish to inform all your readers that in fact tehina and hummus originated in Northern China and it is still used as a condiment.what the middle east did to is to concocte these 2 condiments just like the Italians did with Chinese pasta.
Tehina sells in chinese supermarket and it goes under thensme of TSIMA JIANG (sesame paste)
Rene Levary

Posted by: rene levary at October 5, 2013 11:05 PM

Just another pathetic media jerk who has stupidly swallowed not hummus but the Palestinian propaganda nonsense hook line and sinker.
These bigoted "journalists" should be called out loudly for their obvious biases and unprofessional reporting.

Posted by: John Jaffe at October 10, 2013 05:29 PM

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