As a settler-colonial country, Israel has industriously sought to erase the existence of the people indigenous to the land it occupies, so as to better appropriate aspects of their culture that make it "local", rather than implanted.
Since food is historically a place-based cultural production, Israeli cuisine prides itself not on bagels, lox or gefilte fish - all European in origin - but rather on falafel, hummus, olive oil and the modest but delicious tomato and cucumber salad that accompanies most Palestinian meals.
More recently, Israel has expanded the reach of its cultural theft beyond the historic borders of Palestine, to various Arab countries around it. This theft, arrogantly acknowledged as such, was on display in July in Tel Aviv, where a startup gallery opened its first exhibition, brazenly entitled "Stolen Arabic Art".
The gallery explained: "We are showing the works in the exhibition in Israel without the artists' knowledge or consent, acutely aware of this act of expropriation. By delineating these political and geographic boundaries we wish to call attention to Israel’s exclusion from the Middle East family."
Holding artworks hostage
Organisers claim this "exclusion" is in part due to the success of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel until it stops violating international law and the human rights of Palestinians. "We wish to promote a shared reality marked by open dialogue and exchange throughout the Middle East, without wars, occupation, or any borders," the exhibit description says.
In an interview with Hyperallergic, a New York-based website devoted to discussions of art and culture, exhibition curator Omer Krieger said the goal was to take the artwork "hostage," thus forcing the artists to "negotiate". "We want to break the boycott … I hope that the artists will appreciate the sophistication of this action, that they will understand its purpose and create contact with us," Krieger said.
Krieger is best known for his work from 2011 to 2015 as the artistic director of the Under the Mountain art festival in Jerusalem. According to Hyperallergic, that project, funded by right-wing patrons and the Israeli government, was criticised for art-washing the city's violent reality, including the ethnic cleansing of its Palestinian population.
A traditional Arabic salad of chopped tomato and cucumber has been renamed Israeli salad in Israel