"When one speaks about hummus, they must think of Lebanon and when they speak of Lebanon they must think of hummus."Wacky as this may sound to some readers, the case for geographically determined proprietary rights over culinary products certainly isn’t without precedent:
"What appalls me with Israel is that they are (marketing) hummus as a traditional Israeli product when it is clearly a Lebanese product," said Ramez Abi Nader, a member of the Lebanese Industrialists Association.
They [Abi Nader and Abboud, President of the Lebanese Industrialists Association] said their case was similar to the one over feta cheese in which a European Union court ruled in 2002 that feta is exclusively Greek.But what of the historical factual basis behind our claim to exclusivity over the dish? Writing in the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog, Rachel Sahi attempts to trace the roots of the dish:
They also argue that just as France and Scotland have succeeded in protecting their geographical appellation rights for sparkling wine from Champagne and Scotchwhisky, so should Lebanon for some of its dishes.
It's true that Lebanese hummus is the pedigree of dips, but in reality nobody knows exactly who first started making the stuff – although obviously the cuisine predates Israel. It's been eaten in the Middle East for centuries and some hold that there are references to a hummus-like substance in the Bible.Also commenting on this battle [of Biblical proportions?] is blogger Elder of Ziyon, who questions the real motives behind this affront to the Kosher menu:
Others say it appeared in the Arab world – including Palestine – during Ottoman times. Indeed, the blogosphere is busy with the question of who can rightfully claim to have created hummus (God being mycurrent favourite).
For the record, falafel is supposed to have been invented in Egypt, the earliest verifiable use of hummus was in Syria, and tabbouleh and fattoush are both from the Levant as well.Despite the laughs all around (terrorism? Really?), however, there are others who also see parallels between this fight and that being waged on more pivotal matters:
So, will Lebanese food manufacturers be suing any other Arab or Levantine countries who market these foods as well?
Apparently not. The articles about this refer to this lawsuit as a new type of “resistance” - meaning it is just like terrorism against Israel, but meant to take place in various legal venues for the purpose of hurting Israelis economically rather than physically.
(We’ve seen Arabs upset over Israelis making falafel in the past, and it is always good for a laugh.)
Who knows, maybe the application of international law to such mundane matters such as falafel and tabbouleh could start a snowball effect which could finally break through those barriers of thought that have prevented its application to water, land, and [even] human rights in the land of God.
And it's not just the Lebanese who are riled; it's the subject of low-level complaints among Palestinians too, along the lines of: "First they take our land, now our food ..." In a similar vein, Palestinians within Israel sometimes grumble about the Jewish state seizing language, since Modern Hebrew has borrowed from the Arabic dictionary – of curses, in particular.
Infuriating as this must be, it's unlikely that the hummus takeover was an orchestrated plan of colonial appropriation; more probably, the dish was around in the area and people got hooked on it (in the best tradition of Middle East conspiracy theories, there are a few about the addictive properties of hummus).
In any case, deep down Israelis doubtless know that hummus isn't really their national dish, that international law wouldn't recognise it as such, and that sooner or later they're just going to have to give it back.
Or maybe we’d all be a little better off if we just took a line from the (official?) Hummus Blog and “gave chicpeas a chance”.