In his article “Sabra hummus supports Israel’s human rights abuses,” Chris Wedeman fails to live up to even the diminished standard of intellectual rigor reserved for our public discourse. The authors of this letter applaud Chris’ interest in launching a dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, it is difficult to engage in a discussion—especially over such an emotional issue—when the argument of one side rests on suppositions that have been discredited and are frankly inappropriate.
Mr. Wedeman claims that Jewish- Israeli consumption of hummus and usage of Arab words is tantamount to what he calls “a continuous theft of culture.” We are shocked that Mr. Wedeman is arguing for the plausibility of cultural ownership. Human languages and cultures have always bled into one another. Many Jews speak Arabic, just as many Palestinians speak Hebrew. Both are national languages of Israel. Moreover, there are nearly three million Jews in Israel that are descendants of Arab speakers, most of whom were expelled by their home countries immediately after the establishment of the state of Israel.
The simple point is that cross-cultural communication (in terms of language and food) is expedient for social, business, and human purposes. It is not theft. It’s human dynamism.
In addition, in order to make Sabra (a hummus company) complicit in the Israeli foreign policy that Wedeman abhors, he demonizes the fact that this company delivers care packages to the Golani Brigade, an elite unit of the Israeli Defense Forces. Wedeman cites reports of human rights abuses committed by individuals in the Golani Brigade. These transgressions are indisputably detestable, but are by no means representative of the moral character of the Israeli Defense Forces. Furthermore, it seems to us that this argument is as ludicrous as one that says that care packages sent to American forces overseas corresponds to the condoning of torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib. Support for soldiers does not necessarily indicate support for a war. Wedeman should not condemn a company for providing the comforts of home to teenagers who are serving their country.
Finally, we would like to affirm one more time our interest in having a respectful conversation between the newly founded Students for Justice in Palestine (Wedeman’s affiliate organization) and J Street U, a more moderate group seeking to resolve the conflict through the two-state solution. But, to suggest that Arab-speaking and hummus-eating Israeli Jews are somehow the expropriators of someone else’s cultural property is not a respectful way to begin this conversation. To be honest, it’s offensive.
Judah Isseroff ’13, Co-president of J Street
Adam Rasgon ’13, Co-president of J Street
Melanie Gaynes ’13, Co-president of Hillel
Lydia Singerman ’13, Co-president of Hillel
Devon Shapiro ’13
Joshua Burger-Caplan ’14
Michael Levine ’14
Jonathan Held ’14