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Cultural appropriation fail: Palestinians mock Israeli chef's 'beef knafeh'

Palestinians expressed outrage at this 'beef knafeh' [Instagram]

Date of publication: 4 March, 2020

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Knafeh has been appropriated by Israeli chefs again -- but this time with beef substituted into the sweet pastry dessert.

Palestinians across social media have expressed outrage after their national dessert was appropriated by an Israeli food blogger, but this time using ground beef.

Knafeh is a traditional Palestinian dessert that comes from Nablus made with local Nabulsi cheese, filo pastry and a sugary syrup. Considered a cultural staple, knafeh is traditionally served in all celebratory occasions in Palestine.

For Palestinians, it is also a dessert used to preserve their identity that is continuously under attack by Israel’s occupation, which consistently appropriates Palestinian food in a form of cultural erasure.

An Israeli food blogger, however, took appropriating knafeh to the next level, replacing the cheese with ground beef.

Jamie Geller, an Israeli-American food writer made the knafeh on her Instagram blog. She fried the pastry in olive oil and seasoned the beef in cinnamon, cumin and salt.

She then sandwiched the beef in between two layers of pastry and added sugar water syrup and pistachio.

“A traditional Middle Eastern dish with a twist,” she captioned the post. 

Read also: 'Israeli' hummus is theft, not appropriation

Traditionally, knafeh is made with one layer of filo pastry, with Nabulsi cheese at the bottom.

Geller’s recipe “with a twist” grabbed the attention of Palestinians across the globe, with many mocking her and others expressing outrage at the way Palestinian food has been usurped.

“All you ‘knafe vs chnafe’ Arabs need to unite against this”, Asel, a Palestinian-American tweeted, citing different dialectical pronunciations of the dessert.

Others expressed outrage that she even referred to knafeh as an Israeli dish.

Read also: Knafeh with a pinch of dabke: The Bearded Bakers putting Palestine culture on the map

“She called it 'an Israeli dessert"' she added 'beef' and 'sugary water' literally end my life rn,” another Palestinian tweeted.

Palestinians urge retaliating to such forms of appropriation through a boycott.

Non-violent activism

Palestinians have for decades urged boycott as a tool of protest. Activists have organised under the umbrella known as the BDS committee.

BDS is comprised of over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations, unions, and cultural and rights groups - including all major political parties, trade and academic unions - issued its official call for boycott in 2005.

Read also: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel: What is BDS and why should you care?

The non-violent BDS movement says it is inspired by the campaign that targeted South Africa's apartheid regime and is seeking to put an end to Israel's brutal occupation of the West Bank.

Israel sees the movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism - a claim activists firmly deny, calling it an attempt to discredit them.

But BDS, which adheres to peaceful resistance, aims to pressure Israel to adhere to international law and human rights by lobbying various states, institutions and personas to understand its oppression of Palestinians and take action as a result.

The peaceful movement operates by pressuring corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with Israel with supporters saying activities are aimed at promoting a Palestinian statehood.

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