Food Fight at Harvard Business School

The school’s “Israeli mezze” menu sparks controversy among Arab students.

harvard business school isreali stationPhoto via Facebook

Sara el-Yafi, a graduate student at Harvard Business School, was offended last month when she noticed that the dining hall put together an Israeli-themed menu of mezze plates that she felt insulted her cultural heritage. So Yafi took to Facebook, where she denoted the true origins of each menu item (harissa = from Tunisa and Libya; halloumi = from Cyprus; hummus = from Egypt) and denounced the school for being culturally insensitive to Arabs. An excerpt:

Dear HBS, that “Israeli Mezze Station” is the ultimate multicultural, multireligious fuck-you in the face of ALL Arabs at once from North Africa to the Levant…

If you insist on giving no honor to the Arabs (many of whom are Harvard students/alumni- “hi!”), and/or if you insist on never ever speaking of Arabs in culinary worth (since we’re only ever referred to as warmongers and terrorists), at least have the decency of calling it MEDITERRANEAN MEZZE STATION.

So far, Yafi’s post has been liked more than 4,700 times and shared more than 3,400 times, and she’s garnered news coverage from the Jerusalem Post and Al Arabiya News. Brian Kenny, spokesman for Harvard Business School, said he was “deeply troubled” that students were offended by the menu options, “particularly considering that our reason for doing the international buffet each day is to celebrate cultural diversity.” The school will be reconsidering their menu options. But Yafi’s fight may not be over. In her post, she also called out the “sweet and sour eggplant” being served with the mezze plates:

This draws the f*ckin limit. Now this sure isn’t Arabic, but I would like to see Chinatown respond to this.

Looks like we have an international crisis on our hands.

  • Boo Hoo

    Arabs and Muslims are offended about
    something else ever minute of every day.

    Then, our politically “correct” spineless left
    in the US, UK, and EU, bends over to appease them.

    Get lost Yafi!

  • MJ

    Thanks for letting me know to NEVER hire Sara el-Yafi! What a pain. Disgusting to be so determined to get one’s knickers in a twist.

  • Lee

    The Chinese don’t care because they are busy working and putting their time to purpose. (Realize it’s a rash and ) Rather than becoming upset you would think that people would like to see any amount of their culture being shared within another even if it were somewhat off key. Whining will only cause less use and spread of that associated culture since no one wants to deal with such immature emotional behavior and only paint such behaivor with that culture.

  • scottrose

    This shows the depth and breadth of the hatred from Israel’s enemies. All of the foods involved are in fact often eaten in Israel. Were the university never to have any other themed event, that would be one matter. But it truthfully put forth an example of things people commonly eat in Israel and wound up attacked by a vicious Israel-basher.

    The majority of Israeli Jews today either left Muslim-majority countries under duress, or are descendants of people who did so. They brought to Israel the characteristics foods of their individual nations, forming a Middle Eastern-fusion cuisine that can accurately be described as Israeli.

    Arab-Israeli people, moreover, also contributed to what today is known as Israeli cuisine.

    Tel Aviv was founded in the 1800s by Jews from Yemen; what does this woman think those people ate?

    Had Harvard instead described this one mezze meal as Turkish, Algerian or Lebanese, (even though the menu is not entirely characteristic of any of those three countries) it’s doubtful that this person would have been protesting it — rather, her protest is rooted in her hatred of Israel. She thinks the Jews forced out of Muslim-majority countries under duress, who went to Israel, and contributed to its cosmopolitan cuisine, have no right to consider it theirs.

    An equivalent would be a British loyalist having a temper tantrum over apple pie being American because the first known recipe for it is by Chaucer.