I haven’t gotten so many email forwards about a Lebanon-related issue since the National Geographic special about Phoenician DNA, which featured a stunning photo-montage of several sweaty and very hairy Lebanese fishermen (or, maybe just accountants pretending to be fishermen) rowing a boat and trying their best to look non-Arab.
The latest story, showing up in “Oddly Enough” news feeds around the globe, concerns a lawsuit being filed against Israel by Fadi Abboud, president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association. The official charge is something along the lines of copyright infringement or intellectual property theft, and the products in question are falafel, hummus, tabbouleh, etc.
“The Israelis are marketing our main food dishes as if they were Israeli dishes,” he charged.
“We are working on registering all the foods and ingredients which will be submitted to the Lebanese government so it can appeal to the international courts against Israel,” Abboud said.
This lawsuit promises to be an endless source of amusement. Lebanon’s lawyers will likely point to several recent cases of successful copyright protection of important national brands, like feta (Greece), halloumi (Cyprus), and champagne (France). Meanwhile Israel will no doubt try to make hay of the fact that Beirut’s most popular falafel joint is called Falafel Sahyoun. What hilarities lie ahead, I can only imagine.
But while we’re at it, why not try copyrighting a few other things that were so cynically pilfered from our cultural heritage? Like, for starters, algebra? Or the alphabet, and maybe even Keanu Reeves. Hummus, tabbouleh, and falafel are small potatoes compared to the gazillions of dollars we are losing by not copyrighting the color indigo, for Baal’s sake.
The only thing that worries me about our chances in this lawsuit is the potential knife in the back from our brotherly neighbors to the east. A reader of As`ad Abu Khalil’s blog named “Joseph” recently emailed the Angry Arab this very dangerous protest:
“As’ad, you must say something about the audacity of the Lebanese to claim Hummus and tabouleh and fattoush and all of these pan-Syrian dishes, which came from Damascus and Aleppo, as Lebanese. The attempt by the Lebanese (and this is initially a Christian Lebanese project) to appropriate Syrian food is quite horrific even if it is not as horrific as the Israeli attempt. All the Lebanese can claim is to have a restaurant industry but not a cuisine or a kitchen which they have never had. Nonetheless, you cannot pretend as you did in your post that Hummus is indeed a Lebanese dish (since you did not question the Lebanese claim of possession of it). There are no such thing as Lebanese dishes except in the lexicon and ideology of Lebanese chauvinists.”
The damage done by this Joseph fellow, while serious, is not too severe… yet. But I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t worried about the disastrous possibility of Israel’s lawyers finding out about this horrific “Christian Lebanese project” before too long. And if that happens, you better believe this case will be over faster than you can say “wa7ad falafel ‘extra’ 3a zou2ak“.
In that event, there will be nothing to halt the complete appropriation of hummus by Israel’s marketing geniuses.
Or should I say “khummus”?