Photo credit: Heidi’s Bridge
PleaseÂ click hereÂ for a statement from the letter’s organizers on current context.
To the chefs participating in Israelâs Round Tables food festival;
We are all people who work in the food industry in the United States. We are chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, managers, farmers, and more. We strive for a more sustainable and more equitable food system and support each other in finding concrete ways to better align our business practices with our values.
We have learned of your upcoming participation in Israelâs Round Tables culinary festival and ask you to please cancel. We are adding our voices to those of theÂ Palestinian women, farmer, and worker organizationsÂ who have called for this and theirÂ Israeli allies.
We ask you to do so because as professionals committed to food sovereignty and food access for ALL, we know that none of us can lend our names or our cooking skills to an Israeli government-sponsored culinary event such as this one. Our values around good food must include everyone, including the Palestinian people.
For decades, Palestinians have been fighting against policies similar to ones many of us are protesting now in the U.S. The Trump administration is attempting to take away theÂ Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe reservation landÂ and has attacked the lives and freedom of thousands of immigrants. We stand in solidarity with those under attack here in the US and with the Palestinians who are protesting the same administrationâs ongoing support of Israelâs discriminatory policies, including Trumpâs decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
Events such as Round Tables are part of a larger âBrand Israelâ campaign to help the Israeli government normalize its ongoing denial of Palestinian rights. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has poured resources into this campaign with the explicit intention to improve Israelâs image abroad and silence outrage over its massacres and war crimes.
While Israel hosts international chefs in Tel Aviv for Round Tables, the Israeli military will be counting the calories allowed into Gaza only 40 miles away, keeping the entire population on a state-sanctioned starvation diet. Palestiniansâ farmlands will continue to be expropriated for illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank; their homes and olive orchards demolished; and traditional Palestinian foods, including falafel, hummus, tahini, and zaatar, will continue to be claimed and marketed as Israeli. This continues on while Palestinian residents within Israel are treated as second-class citizens, a status reaffirmed legally by the recently passedÂ Nation State Law.
Round Tables describes itself as âa cultural project, an honorary member of the gastro-diplomacy movement which advocates cultural, economic and political dialogue through gastronomy, maintaining that the easiest way to win hearts and minds is through the stomach.â This year the festival is focusing on âfemale chefsâ in a âspecial editionâ of the festival.
The struggle for equality and safety for women in the food industry and society as a whole should not be manipulated to serve the agendas of oppressive governments, in the U.S, Israel, or anywhere. We believe that no dignified chef wants to be used to win peopleâs hearts and minds over to the cause of apartheid and military occupation.
We have drawn inspiration for this letter from the stance NFL playerÂ Michael BennettÂ took when he cancelled a similarly sponsored trip to Israel, refusing to be used by the U.S. or Israeli governments as an âinfluencerâ in support of their right-wing, racist agendas. We were educated and encouraged by the open letter asking NFL players to cancel their participation,Â signed by Alice Walker, Harry Belafonte, Angela DavisÂ and many other important leaders within the U.S.
In the past two years, Michelin-starred Irish chef JP McMahon, top chef Mitsuharu Tsumura and Danish-Bolivian chef Kamilla Seidler cancelled their participation in the festival after appeals from human rights defenders.
We ask you to take a stand against the erasure of an indigenous people and cancel your participation at the Round Tables festival in Israel. We recognize that this may be difficult given whatever contracts you may have already signed. But to be principled means sometimes taking losses so that we can all win in the end.
Bennett quoted 1968 Olympian John Carlos as guidance for his decision: âThere is no partial commitment to justice. You are either in or youâre out.â We hope you are in.
|Amanny Ahmad, artist, chef, forager, Palestinian
Gabriela Ălvarez, founder and chef, Liberation Cuisine
Mary Ellen Amato, chef/owner, Rita
Reem Assil, chef/owner, Reem’s California
George Azar, chef/owner, Flowers of Vietnam
M. Karlos Baca, I-Collective, founder of Taste of Native Cuisine
Maxwell Bernstein, operations manager and bread baker, She Wolf Bakery
Alexandre Borghetti, co-founder/president, RADUNO
Warda Bouguettaya, owner + pastry chef, Warda PĂ˘tisserie, Detroit
Cole Carothers, member-owner, Khao’na Kitchen
Jess V. Castillo
Kimberly Chou Tsun An, co-director, Food Book Fair
Aaron Crowder, chef/partner, Cervoâs
Alex Dang, bar manager, Ida Bâs Table
Devita Davison, executive director, FoodLab Detroit
Sabrina De Sousa, Dimes
Lee Desrosiers, chef at large
Angela Dimayuga, chef, Creative Director of Food & Culture, Standard Hotels
Marisa Dobson, consultant and organizer
NeftalĂ Duran, I Collective
Rebecca Eichenbaum, pastry chef, Wythe Hotel
Christina Ermilio, bread baker
Devonn Francis, owner, Yardy NYC
Ethan Frisch, co-founder/co-owner, Burlap & Barrel
Gerardo Gonzalez, chef, formerly El Rey and Lalito
Jon Gray, co-founder, Ghetto Gastro
Ben Hall, chef/owner, Russell Street Deli â Eastern Market
Sara Elise Hardman, owner + creative director, Harvest & Revel
Michaela Hayes-Hodge, co-founder + farmer, Rise & Root Farm
Stephanie Hsu, organizer, Charm City Night Market
Hidden Acres Farm, Inc. of Tolland, Connecticut
Ben Jackson, chef, Drifters Wife
Sana Javeri Kadri, founder & CEO, Diaspora Co.
Sara Kramer, chef/owner, Kismet
Oriana Koren, photographer-writer, Authority Collective
Agatha Kulaga, founder, Ovenly
Zaid Kurdieh, Norwich Meadows Farm
Maritza Abreu, owner, Puerto Viejo Dominican Bistro and Pisqueya
Megan Larmer, program director and researcher
Christina Lecki, executive chef, Reynard
Joy Liu-Trujillo, chef/owner Mudita Ramen
Munira Lokhandwala, FERMENT co-coordinator + Dream Cafe
Katy McNulty, founder + special events director, The Pixie and The Scout
Ben Miller & Cristina Martinez, South Philly Barbacoa
Klancy Miller, cookbook author
Preeti Mistry, chef, writer
Elizabeth Murray, director of HR + communications, The Marlow Collective & co-founder, Women in Hospitality United
Shilpa Nandwani, member-owner, Khao’na Kitchen
Danny Newberg, Joint Venture
Jessie Nicely, chef, Burmese, Please!
Alicia Parter, chef
Daniel Patterson, Alta Group
Laurie Ellen Pellicano, culinary consultant and recipe developer
People’s Kitchen Collective
Anya Peters, chef, Kit anâ Kin
Tu David Phu, chef
Jocelyn Ramirez, chef and founder, Todo Verde
Tara RodrĂguez Besosa, founder/creative director, El Departamento de la Comida
David Santos, chef/owner, Um Segredo Supper Club
Stephen Satterfield, Whetstone Magazine
Pierre Serrao, chef/partner, Ghetto Gastro
Brant Shapiro, Norwich Meadows Farm
Yong Shin, Insa
Shakirah Simley, community organizer
Kristina Stanley, I-collective, founder of Abaaso Foods
Gabriella S. Stern, manager
Max Sussman, Samesa (NYC)
Julia Turshen, cookbook author
Desiree Tuttle, chef, Achilles Heel
Chinchakriya Un, Kreung Cambodia
Mary Vaughan, bartender, assistant sommelier
Diana A. Voicu, student, cook, food activist
Rose Weiss, chef and worker organizer
Tunde Wey, chef, writer
Ora Wise, culinary director, Dream Cafe
Amanda Yee, chef, The Blues Woman
Pamela Yung, itinerant cook
Sohail Zandi, chef/owner, Brushland Eating House
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Chris Carlson is a student of religion at Mount Mercy University, United States, and has been a regular volunteer with the IMEMC since 2013. He assisted in providing extensive coverage of the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip and continues, into the present day, with the issues at hand. He can be reached via email at c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g.