Opinion

Mena Massoud ‘Doesn’t Understand the Politics’ of Claiming Middle Eastern Food as Israeli

mm
Mena Massoud ‘Doesn’t Understand the Politics’ of Claiming Middle Eastern Food as Israeli

In December 2018, Aladdin actor, Mena Massoud posted a seemingly harmless video on his Instagram page, “Evolving Vegan”. In this video, Mena details all the foods he grew up eating (and now can’t eat as a vegan), “shawerma, shish tawook, labneh”. He then introduces the restaurant he’ll be eating at- an “Israeli inspired plant-based restaurant serving up all the Mediterranean classics”.

Recently, Egyptian and Arab twitter caught on to this video, calling him out for reinforcing the idea that Palestinian and Levantine food is Israeli.

Massoud replied to this tweet with a response that many were unpleased with (rightfully so):


The actor’s response seemed like a cop-out to most; how could he not know the politics behind it? Any Egyptian, even one of the diaspora, knows of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Using “growing up in Toronto” also does not do the actor justice, considering that far more Canadians (Toronto included) have a negative view on the Israeli government over a positive one. As someone who is in the spotlight, who also uses his identity to appeal to Egyptian and Arab audiences, it is his responsibility to know and do better for his community.

Mena Massoud is behind the brand ‘Evolving Vegan’

Massoud often refers to his connection to his Egyptian identity, even using it in the video with the owner of the restaurant. It is deeply problematic for Massoud to be capitalising on his Egyptian identity whilst simultaneously to not only be ignoring the continued oppression of Palestine by Israel, but Israel’s own history with Egypt.

Even if Massoud might genuinely not have known about this, now that someone has shed light on it, it is his responsibility to educate himself more on the situation and acknowledge how this message of food appropriation is harmful.

Many acclaimed chefs, restaurants, and everyday people have been calling food that is indigenous to Palestine and the Levant, Israeli, erasing its true origin. This is part of an ongoing cultural genocide, whereby Palestinian food, art and culture is being stolen and appropriated as being “Israeli”.

To many people, “it’s just food” or “it’s not that deep” but to Palestinians and other oppressed communities, food is deeply intertwined with identity and has always been a way to preserve heritage. Hummus, shawerma and several other dishes outlive Israel, which was only established in 1948.

Many will try and compare this to other situations like “Why is it okay for non-Italians to make Italian food?” First of all, no one is calling that food anything but Italian, and secondly, Italy’s land is not currently being (violently) occupied by the group of people making their food.

To claim and support these foods as Israeli, is to contribute to the ongoing cultural genocide of Palestine. It is on Massoud, and everyone else who is complacent and contributes to this ignorance to do better, and to recognise their wrongs when called out. It is crucial, because the impact of these choices, in particular for people who are in the spotlight, go beyond their individual choice, and can influence thousands either negatively, or positively.

Any opinions or thoughts expressed in this article do not reflect the views of Egyptian Streets’ editorial team. To submit an opinion piece, please email [email protected]

The Battle of the Races: Egypt's Media Syndicate Finally Took a Stance Against Racism
China-Africa Relations: Parasitism or Mutualism?

Subscribe to our newsletter


Opinion

More in Opinion

Jennifer Lopez vs Rania Youssef: Why One Was Slandered and Not the Other

Nour EltiganiAugust 12, 2019

Arabs in the African Cup: How Soccer Challenges Egyptian Nationalism

Mirna WasefAugust 9, 2019

From Monroe to Rostom: The ‘Femme Fatale’ in Hollywood and Egyptian Cinema

Mirna AbdulaalAugust 5, 2019

#ATeamOfHarassers: Egyptians Are Right to Still Seethe at MoSalah

Sara AhmedJuly 7, 2019

Russia’s Old Tale ‘The Overcoat’: A Relevant Analogy for Egyptian Society?

Mirna AbdulaalJuly 5, 2019

Reclaiming Azza: A History of Female Resistance in Sudan

Iman AbbaroJune 15, 2019

Egypt and Turkey: the Calm Before the Storm

Omar IbrahimJune 11, 2019

Let us Coptic People Talk about our Apathy Towards Palestinian Solidarity

Mary FawzyJune 8, 2019
Egyptian Streets is an independent, young, and grass roots news media organization aimed at providing readers with an alternate depiction of events that occur on Egyptian and Middle Eastern streets, and to establish an engaging social platform for readers to discover and discuss the various issues that impact the region.

© 2017 Egyptian Streets. All Rights Reserved.