Conflict Kitchen cooks up food and dialogue

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

As artists who have traveled in Israel and throughout the West Bank in 2013, and as attendees at two recent events sponsored by Conflict Kitchen (including the Oct. 7 lunchtime discussion with Dr. Nael Althweib and Professor Ken Boas), we take issue with some of the claims reported in Laura Scherb’s story “Conflict Kitchen’s Palestinian theme causes contention.”

Apart from quoting one Pitt student who felt “uncomfortable and unsafe” at the discussion, Scherb does not establish that any of her other sources have actually attended any Conflict Kitchen programming related to Palestine.

As witnesses to the variety of accounts and opinions that were presented by articulate people in a civil manner in broad daylight in Schenley Plaza (a public space), we are dismayed that anyone could have feared for their safety and find such remarks either naïve or inflammatory.

While eyes may have been rolled at some comments, the discussion was lively, but respectful, and we neither saw nor heard any ridicule or muzzling of any speaker. In fact, an Israeli veteran, a spokesman from the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, and Israeli citizens all contributed to an informative exchange and dialogue.

There was both defense and critique of Israel and the impact of its policies on the daily lives of Palestinians.

Academia and public life are full of presentations that deliver points of view without rebuttals. A focus on Palestine does not necessitate an equal focus on Israel, especially in a country like ours that is so politically and financially committed to supporting Israel, the largest beneficiary of American foreign aid. This and the preponderance of media support for Israel is apparently not enough, though the Conflict Kitchen event we attended gave plenty of space to pro-Israeli voices. There is simply no credence to the claim that Conflict Kitchen is excluding “other voices.”

As stated on its website, Conflict Kitchen “uses the social relations of food and economic exchange to engage the general public in discussions about countries, cultures, and people that they might know little about outside of the polarizing rhetoric of governmental politics and the narrow lens of media headlines.” This iteration of Conflict kitchen is doing exactly that.

While Tartans 4 Israel proposes a “Coexistence Kitchen” that will engage its “audience with trivia questions,” we applaud Conflict Kitchen’s solid research, authentic and delicious cuisine and thought-provoking programming. Conflict Kitchen provides substance and sustenance.