by: David Harris-Gershon on November 7th, 2014 | 6 Comments »
This is a strange and deeply revealing story.
It is the story of how a major American (and global) Jewish organization attacked Teresa Heinz Kerry and the Heinz Foundation as an expression of “pro-Israel” support. It is the story of how food wrappers used by a tiny restaurant in Pittsburgh, Conflict Kitchen, became the launching pad for this attack. And it is the story of simultaneous silence and complicity when a top Israeli politician effectively embraced Apartheid in The New York Times.
The Story of Conflict Kitchen
To begin, we must tell the story of Conflict Kitchen. Established in 2010 by Carnegie Mellon University art professor Jon Rubin and Pittsburgh artist Dawn Weleski, the take-out restaurant was begun as an experimental, cultural project. Its vision: introduce local citizens to the foods of those peoples with whom the United States is in conflict. Here is how the restaurant articulates this vision:
Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, publications, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus region. The restaurant rotates identities every few months in relation to current geopolitical events.
It’s a beautiful, noble project – the type of initiative which should be replicated across the United States. So what’s the problem, or faux problem? Conflict Kitchen’s newest iteration is Palestinian cuisine, which Pittsburgh Jewish organizations immediately assailed as anti-Israel and illegitimate. The argument being that “Palestine” is not technically in “conflict” with the United States, despite the fact that many Palestinians feel otherwise, since America is Israel’s principal military backer – the same military which supports Israel’s decades-old occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank and repeatedly attacks Gaza.
The “controversy” which resulted after Conflict Kitchen was labeled as anti-Israel has created two outcomes. First, Conflict Kitchen’s newest iteration, Palestinian cuisine, has become its most popular, and has garnered the tiny pop-up restaurant national attention (not to mention hundreds of new customers who never would have known about the restaurant’s existence). Second, this national attention Conflict Kitchen garnered placed it in the crosshairs of a major Jewish institution intent on cutting off its funding.