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February 28, 2024 53 mins

Shereen is joined by chef Reem Assil and filmmaker Jibrael Younes to discuss the importance of persevering Palestinian cuisine amidst an ethnic cleansing, utilizing food as resistance, and celebrating Palestinian joy and culture. 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Al Zone Media.

Speaker 2 (00:03):
Okay, quick disclaimer, there is some unexpected background noise in
some of the guests audio. The content is regardless, fantastic,
so I hope it doesn't deter you from continuing to
listen to the episode. This is just a disclaimer to
let y'all know, we know it's there. We can hear
it too. It is what it is. It adds some

more texture to your experience, you know. So you're welcome,
really hello, and welcome to it could happen here. Today's
episode is one that I've wanted to tackle for a while,
and there are many different avenues to go about it.
I think today is a little bit more focused, and

I want to talk about food, Palestinian food, to be exact,
and the way that it can be used as resistance
as part of a culture that is being eradicated. Essentially,
the appropriate of Palestinian surface culture by Israel has been
happening ever since Israel's inception. Surface culture encompasses tangible and

observable elements that contribute to the distinctive identity of a
cultural group or region. Music, food, dress, and other aspects
often define a nation's surface culture. Authentic culture evolves organically
over generations, at least it's supposed to, but Israel has

a sort of top down approach to culture that lacks
genuine identifying characteristics. Throughout its history, Israel has either fabricated, annexed,
or reconstructed both surface and deep cultural elements through what
writer Jamal Khanj describes as quote falsehoods, myths, and fables.

Unlike the conventional slow and organic development of culture, Israeli
surface culture came prepackaged by appropriating those very elements from
the Age Old through Palestinian culture. A prominent aspect of
any society's culture is its local cuisine. In nineteen forty eight,
Israel ethnically cleansed Palestine of all non Jewish Palestinians, took

over their land and brazenly claimed Palestinian culinary treasures like hummus, falafel, babylonuche, tabule, salad,
coscos frigic, bimjadda, da peeda, bread, and many more. They
claimed them all as Israeli. All it took was to
identify a Palestinian dish and then add the noun Israeli
before its name. Going through the complete list of pleasiarized

Palestinian cuisine would take me way way too long, especially
because I feel like Western familiarity with Palestinian cuisine remains
somewhat limited. But I do want to explain one example
that clearly shows just how foreign appropriated Palestinian food is
to Israel. Homos, the Arabic word humos does not exist

in these spoken Israeli language Hebrew. Pronouncing the word correctly
is actually a bit challenging for most Hebrew speakers because
there is no hard ha in the Hebrew alphabet, and
in general, when Hebrew speakers attempt to enunciate homos or
any Arabic word with the hard ha, they mispronounce it
as j in this case, homos, not homos, and you

might have heard this a lot recently. When it comes
to ramas. The full name of the dish, homos becomes
even more challenging when adding its second part to heini.
The h in tahmi is also a hard ha, so
own Israeli would distort the Palestinian dish homos bitachini to
horomos bitacchini. This is an insult to the Arabic language,

culinary etiquette, and to Arab shifts in the Levat kitchen
around the world. To paraphrase Palestinian American comedian Moamer, homos
does not exist in your lexicon. You can't pronounce it,
how can it be your national food. Even more amusing
is when an Israeli writer posited that humost and eggplant

babylanuche were quote Israeli foods, because that's how the Spanish
Inquisition identified secret Jews from the food they ate. A
similar hypothesis to this is the argument that foods like homos, fada, felfrike, etc.
Were brought by Jews who came from the Arab world.
Of course, the diverse citizenry of the Arab world or

the Muslim slash Arab Spain, it must have had homos
and eggplant in their cultural diet. Jewish citizens cooked and
ate the food because they lived in the culture that
produced the food, not because they created the food for
that culture. Arab Jews also exist, but that would still
make all of this food Arabic food. Writer Jamad Khans writes,

since Israelis contend that Jews have the right to claim
foods brought with them as Israeli food, why don't they
claim Russian dishes as Israeli food? Better yet, why don't
is from New York claim American steak as an Israeli
food too. I know it's kind of said in jest,
but he does raise a serious question. Why does Israel

appropriate Palestinian and Arab food but not food brought in
from Russia, Europe, Poland or America. It is simply because
Palestinian food provides the Israeli top down culture with a
distinctive surface cultural identity. It also features atypical exotic culinary
dishes to Western kitchens, and this makes it a lot

easier to hoodwink the West regarding the origin of their
made up surface culture. The gall of claiming Palestinian culinary
treasures is not only historically inaccurate, but also offensive and disrespectful.
It is quite common for countries to adopt elements of
other cultures, including their cuisine. For example, American cuisine celebrates

a rich tapestry of international dishes like Asian, Italian, and
Mexican food. However, the foods remained appreciated for their origin,
with no real urgency to appropriate them as America's national food.
Kanj suggests that unlike Israel, it could be that the
United States does not have the same obsessive need to

fake a culture to justify its existence. In contrast, the
Zionist movement envisioned Israel's survival as being predicated on erasing
the history of the rich heritage of Palestine's culture and
its people. And all of this is extremely relevant to
what is happening right now as Israel continues its genocide

of Palestinians, because genocide and ethnic cleansing isn't just about
lives lost. It's not just about physical death, but the
death of the very idea of a people. Erasing even
the memory of a people and their culture, cuisine, and
heritage along with it, it's pretending Palestinians in their culture

were never there to begin with. And this has been
a narrative that Zionists have said since israe inception, the
land without people for a people without land. But this
appropriation of food in both the physical and cultural ethnic
cleansing of Palestine, this didn't start on October seventh. The
slow ethnic cleansing of Palestine has been going on for

over seventy six years, and the stealing and claiming of
Palestinian food as Israeli is intrinsically a part of that.
It brings me to the topic of today's episode. Today,
my guests are Reem Asial and Jabriel Units. Reem is
a multiple award winning Palestinian Syrian speaker and chef based

in Oakland, California, working at the intersection of food, community
and social justice. Jabriel is a Palestinian filmmaker and artist
who has worked with Reim on multiple projects, including a
show that we touch on in this episode, with Food
as a Tool, we talk about utilizing AIRB hospitality to
build a strong, resilient community as well as celebrate Palestinian joy.

Here it is Hello everybody, This is Sharen. Welcome to
It could happen here today. We're talking to two people
I love and respect very much about a topic that

I think is really underreported on, and that's food erasure
and how it's part of ethic cleansing. And I think
it's a really important topic to talk about right now,
especially with the genocide happening in Palestine. So let's just
jump right in without further Ado. Welcome my guests, Read
and Jabidil.

Speaker 3 (08:38):
Hello, Hello, Hello, Hey.

Speaker 2 (08:43):
Just so our audience can get to know you guys
a little bit better, how about y'all introduce yourselves and
like what you do and yeah, yeah, Ream you want
to go first.

Speaker 3 (08:52):
Sure. My name is Reem.

Speaker 1 (08:54):
I am a Bay Area based Palestinian Syrian and chef.
I own a restaurant called Reems, California, and our mission
really is to build community across cultures and experiences through
the warmth of Arab bread and hospitality.

Speaker 4 (09:13):
Beautiful. Wow, that was so succinct. My name is thank
you for saday, So.

Speaker 3 (09:20):
I've done it a few times, you know.

Speaker 4 (09:21):
Yeah, my name is jobral Unis. I'm a filmmaker based
in Pasadena and I am also a Palestinian artist in general.

Speaker 2 (09:32):
Yeah, no relation. Both of our last names are Unis,
but that is how we met. A white person said,
you guys have the same last name, you should meet,
and we met. No, we're friends, but I really like
the partnership that you guys have in the collaboration that
you guys, from my perspective, have established. Can you guys
talk about what you've been working on recently together?

Speaker 4 (09:52):
Yeah? Yeah, So we've been working on for the past
since like twenty twenty one or late twenty We've been
working on a documentary series that is named after Reem's cookbook,
which is you should pick it up. It's one of
my favorite cookbooks that I own. It's called Arabia and

it is a documentary series exploring the food ways and
diaspora of Arab people across South past Asia, North Africa.
And I think the general log line and dream can
dive into a bit more of the general log line
is you can tell this like through telling the story
of the food, you can tell the story of our
people in diaspora. And it underscores a lot of I

think we'll talk about today, which is sort of food identity,
identity through food and resilience and through food. But also
I think one thing that's always been really important to
both of us is how much we see the show
as like a celebration of our culture. I feel like
there are so many trauma stories from not only Palestinians

but Arabs in general, and I think something that was
really important us as I guess let's talk about all
of it. We're an extremely I think, you know, we're
extremely politicized as a people, but also very passionate. But
also let's celebrate all the things we love about ourselves
and love about our culture and the tastes and smells
and sounds and sights. So how would you I feel

like that's sort of the setup, but how would you
describe it?

Speaker 1 (11:23):
Yeah, I think that's exactly it. And our hope is
that the being able to break down the barriers, or
have a lens into our world for the public is
kind of a gateway to understand the context and the
politics behind why things are the way they are and

to really fight the dehumanization that Arabs have experienced, particularly.

Speaker 3 (11:52):
In the West.

Speaker 1 (11:53):
And so, you know, while this is a show about food,
it's also it's very much a show about people and
how interconnected we are. So yeah, we're really excited to
be able to break down some of those barriers of
understanding in a way that could actually lead to people,

you know, fighting anti Arab sentiment in this country, fighting Islamophobia,
all of these things when they have that kind of
lens or that view into our world.

Speaker 4 (12:24):
Yeah, and I mean it's been pretty interesting. Can I
keep vamping a little bit? It's been pretty interesting. I
mean I think the sort of like thought that started
the show really was why it's so easy? And I
think we'll talk about this later too in depth, but like,
why is it so easy to find so many different

cultures food, you know, like you have I'm going to
use Asian food as an example, because I live in
the San Gabriel Valley, so it's like all around me.
But you have Korean food and Japanese food, and so
many different types of Chinese food that are all specifically
called what they are and where they're from. Right, They're
all like identified correctly. And that can extend to the

Latin X world and their food, it can extend to
European food. It's all very you know, like people call
it what it is, and then you sort of get
to you get to you know, Southwest Asia and North Africa,
and suddenly the food stops being called, you know, what
it is, and starts being called Mediterranean or starts being

called Middle Eastern. And I think that the idea was,
like I had gone to Anaheim, where there's a neighborhood
called Little Arabia here, and there was a Palestinian restaurant.
I was like so excited about it. It's called the
Olive Tree. It's closed now, but I was like so
so excited, and I got I always get so so

excited when I find a Palestinian restaurant or a yeah,
any restaurant, and you know, I mean many of them.
But I think the reason I get so excited is
because it's so hard to find those places, and I
think there's a reason why. And so, you know, three
and a half years later, the show has sort of

grown from that initial thought and interest and become very,
very different and it's effort to humanize Arabs, which is
something I think is you know, it's unfortunate that we
still have to do that, but I think we kind
of do, especially right now. But yeah, we've been pitching
for like, you know, we worked on it together for
a while and then of been pitching and going through

pitches and talking at different companies and getting a lot
of great feedback and getting some really weird feedback for
the past like few years. And we can talk about that.

Speaker 2 (14:40):
More if you want, but well, oh, I'd like to
talk about some of the more interesting feedback, I guess,
But I also want to ask you ream how how
did you get involved in food? Like where did that
passion start?

Speaker 3 (14:56):
Yeah, I've I.

Speaker 1 (14:57):
Would say food has always been in the backdrop, for
better or for worse, of my life experiences, particularly when
everything falls apart from me. I grew up kind of
as a whatever. The term I've heard is like the
third culture kid, right where the Arab identity was really

strong in our household, and that was particularly through food,
but then also and a stranger in a strange land
outside of the home, where it was predominantly your typical
Americana suburban culture. And so I was kind of like,
even though food was there, the intertwining with identity made

me like run away from it a lot, because it
reminds you of your otherness. And also just the nuances
of seeing my mom being a working mom and struggling
in the kitchen. So I was like, I'm I'm going
to be a feminist and I'm never gonna touch her.
That was like and then every time, like you know,

and then I did like what the immigrant child does,
like overachiever, like go to college, try to be the president,
and then realize that's not what I want to do.
When I spent many years in the nonprofit world, I
was doing organizing work, and while that work was really
rewarding to some extent, it was really draining and not
fulfilling in a deeper spiritual level. And so every time

I would burn out, the food and particularly the food
of my culture would come back in some shape or form.
So I just had this kind of moment in twenty
ten where I was in another bout of burnout and
depression and really questioning everything. And it was a trip
that I took to the Arab world with my father
and seeing particularly bred in these straight corner bakeries be

the anchor for this community that I had, you know,
as a kid of diaspora, like really longing to feel
connected to and it was through.

Speaker 3 (17:04):
The food that I felt connected once again.

Speaker 1 (17:06):
So my mom did something right, love of her the
credit for that, but I was like, I need to
explore this more, I need to understand what is this?
And so then food became a source of healing for
me to like come back to my identity and come
back to my culture. But then also just the power
of food as a community builder that like transcends all cultures,

Like I really loved that as a community organizer who
had been working with other communities who struggled just like
my own, right, So that's kind of how I got
into food by way of my love for wanting to
belong and my love for connection of community. And then
slowly became obsessed with food itself. I mean, who doesn't

love food, But it is a place of both trauma
and healing for me, So it became kind of a
way to transcend that.

Speaker 2 (18:00):
No, I think it's a great thing to bring up
how it's a trauma and very healing as well. I
to kind of talk about, like the feedback. I know
you've had a restaurant in the Bay Area for a while.
Was it similar when you tried to make the show
come together? Like did you have similar barriers and feedback,
Like were you like familiar with some of the things
that people were saying or was it completely like a

new game.

Speaker 3 (18:24):

Speaker 1 (18:25):
So the context that I started my restaurant, and I
want to say it was probably much different than even
what it is now today, although certainly there is backlash.
But I would say I was one of the first
few chefs who were saying, nope, I want my food
to be called Arab, and I really wanted to counter

these kind of watered down labels of Middle Eastern or
Mediterranean or you know, levantine. To me, those were all
colonial terms and it was like a bad word to
say Arab, and I wanted to reclaim that identity. I
was like, if I'm going to come out, I want
to come out as my whole self and not this person,
this scared person that was stifled all my life. And

I understand why the immigrants before me came, you know,
did it that way because they needed to make a living.
And you know, there was a lot of anti Arab sentiment,
especially in the wake of nine to eleven, that that
kind of climate here, and so I had this like
lovely idea that I'm like this generation where I can
like break it down and make it cool. I'm like,

I'm going to mainstream it, you know. And I got
pushback actually from my own family, because they had those fears.
They were like, just you know, start like, don't even
start with like a zacta eventu A shit, nobody's gonna
now it's like the hot thing. But so that was
a context in which I was opening my business and

nobody had done it really before, so I could kind
of create my own rules and people like what is this?

Speaker 3 (19:53):
And I still got like a lot of like, oh
is this you know.

Speaker 1 (19:59):
Mediterrane You know, people it took a while to train
people to say Arab and then put the layer of
Palestinian identity, you know, my Palestinian identity at the time
that I was opening my restaurant was really important. It
was you know, I had started my pop ups on
the in the wake of Israel's second to worst. Now

we're seeing the worst of it incursion on Raz in
twenty fourteen, in which they killed you know, over three
thousand Palestinians in one winter, and we were devastated by that.
We were devastated about the state of organizing with Palestinians,
and I really wanted to as I opened my restaurant,
not be scared to talk about my whole self, and

so I h.

Speaker 3 (20:46):
So everything about Reims.

Speaker 1 (20:47):
Even though we're not like pushing our politics in your face,
the very act of being Palestinian was seen as political,
just existing. And we had a mural of a Palestinian
activist who was based in Chicago, Desmoda, who is deported
by the government as a made an example of to say,
if you're a Palestinian and you're outspoken about Palestine, this

is what will happen to you. And I put her
on the wall to remind my community and to remind
myself that we don't need to be scared, and I
got a lot of backlash for that, but I think
even in that time, despite the backlash, the amount of
community support, amount of opportunity for people to learn, was

that much greater, and so I ended up getting a
lot more positive attention for my bakery overall as a
result of that.

Speaker 4 (21:42):
How do you have just a few?

Speaker 1 (21:46):
It makes me happy every time I wake up with
a nomination. I'm like, I wonder what the Zionists be thinking.
It gives me a little bit of like hope that
like our success is kind of like.

Speaker 3 (21:58):
What is threatening?

Speaker 1 (22:00):
You know, because we are truth We are in the
business of truth telling, and we do it in a
way that's very human, you know, based in our humanity
and our dignity, and that our restaurant was really I
think powerful in that way that a simple art piece
or the simple act of making food and calling it
Palestinian was that threatening to the powers that be, you know, Like.

Speaker 4 (22:24):
That's such an interesting backdrop also to talk about the
feedback we got from the show, because like, I think
Reem's experience was so was so visceral in that way,
and I mean when she described as well, and I
think you can look it up and there have been
articles on Vice and stuff about it where people can

read about her experience and everything that happened. And you know,
I think maybe we undersold your intro a little bit
ram like you're a badass and you know, the James
Beard noms and a lot of great and awesome press.
But I think what's interesting about the show is with realms,
with realms at the restaurant. You know, it's very specifically

Palestinian and Arab food and the show, while yeah, it's
being made by us who are Palestinian people, it's not
only about Palestine, and that's been something we've sort of
had to overcome, Like the show is about Arabs and
it's about our foods and food ways and as much

as the food, you know, the show. As much as
the show focuses on Palestine, it also focuses on Egypt
and Yemen and where you know, I mean the Yemeni
coffee tradition is like where Arab coffee kind of came
from and started from. And it also focused on Lebanon
and Morocco and Algeria. It's been an interesting yeah, go ahead, ream.

Speaker 1 (23:52):
Yeah, I was just to that point, like it's it's
not about I mean, first of all, these these these
states are border right order, they're colonized states in some
shape or form. And the idea is to fight the
tropes of the Arab as one thing, right, Like it's
showing the breadth and depth of our culture, that like,

we're not Hamat, it's not a monolith, We're not homogeneous.
And even the ethos of Realms kind of is very
similar to that idea that yes we are Palestinian, but
we're also Syrian, we're also Oakland, we're also California. Like
those things don't need to compete with one another. I
hate you know, like you know, my identity kind of

coming on the scene. Yes I'm Arab and yes I'm Palestinian,
but those are political identities. The reason we call our
food Palestinian is to draw attention to the ethnic cleansing.

Speaker 3 (24:45):
And a rasure of our people. That's why we call
it Palestinian. But it's not. There's there are certain foods
that are not inherent.

Speaker 1 (24:51):
I mean, they're enjoyed all over the Arab world and
they look different, but you can't like the claiming of
ownership of food is Yeah, so I think this show
is really trying to fight against that trope of the
It's called ada bia, which is kind of like a
tongue in cheek, like what do you think of with
the Arab woman? And it's like, let me take all

of those stereotypes and like turn them on their head.
It's the same thing with like all of our food
ways in our culture. There is no singular way of
what an Arab is. We all have kind of our
unique stories and histories, so when we choose to call
things what they are, there's a context in a history
for that, and that's what we're trying to share.

Speaker 2 (25:35):
Yeah, exactly, I think. I mean, I really really relate
to the idea of really wanting to be represented with food.
Like when I find a Syrian restaurant, I freak out.
Like there's one alcohol in southern California where it's like
my family and I go there every weekend when I'm

down and when I'm visiting my parents. It's just like
a place where we feel like the closest we can
get to home again. And I think it's a really
important like reminder that I don't know food is food
can be really powerful. And before I keep rambling, I'm
gonna take our break and we'll be right back, and

we are back. Reim. You mentioned something earlier that I
think is worth touching back on the idea of like
existing being already like a political act. I think that
is like it's a burden for a lot of people
of color and a lot of marginalized communities. And I
think hand in hand with that is the fact that
like our food is also like a political act, like

making sure it's couscus not is really cuscus or whatever
it is that we're trying to fight against. How do
you see food? And especially now, I think people underestimate
how many levels there are of ethnic cleansing, because erasing
food and appropriating food is a huge part of that, right,
So can I get your take on that, both of

your takes?

Speaker 1 (27:11):
You mean, like beyond appropriating, Yeah, I mean I think
food is a tool of It is weaponized historically against people,
I mean most doubtably obviously with seventy five years of
occupation of Palestine. One of the many ways besides the dispossession, killing, expulsion,

is to sever us from our food wasys. And when
you sever someone from their land that creates the food ways,
you sever them from their culture, from their existence. Then
there's just the most the more immediate way as we're
seeing this genocide unfolds, where you can starve a population
with that, and so food then becomes kind of this

powerful tool to break a people and why we see
people like food become a form of resistance for people.
But even here in our communities, I mean, this is
not unfortunately unique to the Palestinians. You've seen the pillaging
of indigenous folks here in this country the same things,

kind of cutting them off from their food ways, their
means of subsistence, of supporting one another, of you know,
being connected to their culture. And now you're seeing in
communities through economic policy, like food deserts and people not
being able to access their food or have sovereignty over
their food production. So it is absolutely a tool and

something that we talk about at REAMS a lot that
like the fight for Palestine is the fight for food
sovereignty everywhere and vice versa.

Speaker 2 (28:56):
Right, Well, I'm glad you brought up the idea of
or just the fact that like Israel and the Zionist
regime has like taken Palestinians from their land. And I've
talked about this before on this podcast, but like the
olive tree is a very significant part of Palestinian culture,
and like olive harvesting is a huge part of Palestinian life.

And so when you burn down thousands of olive trees,
or when you kick people out of like the agriculturally
rich parts of the land, you're denying them so much
more than just olives. It's like very deep. And I
think when people that are not as informed about Palestine
question like why is there a watermelon? Like what's this?

And what's the olive about? And I think that goes
to show how powerful food can be. And just for
those who don't know, the watermelon became an active or
a symbol of resistance because the Palestinia flag was not
allowed to be raised for a while and it has
the same colors as the Palestinian flag, and so that's
just like a really beautiful way that food has become

this like powerful symbol. And so I just I just
trying to, I don't know, emphasize that a little bit.
I guess, Jabil, what's.

Speaker 4 (30:08):
Your take, Yeah, I mean I think that I think
just I'll speak like a little bit more domestically. I
feel like Raem is so eloquent and talking about the
historic parts of it. But I mean even here like
domestically in Los Angeles or California, I think one of
the things, and it kind of goes back to what
we were talking about earlier. One of the things that's
one of the things that's difficult is there are so

few identifying parts of or just restaurants in general, like
correctly identifying restaurants Syria in or Lebanese or Palestinian or
what have you, and they hide under these names which
when I'm not going to name like specific restaurants here,
but like which when other restaurants open and maybe they're

owned by an Italian person or just other people that
aren't Arab, and suddenly they're taking the food and misappropriating
it and calling it. Yeah, I mean Israeli kuscus or
like an Israeli salad or Israeli falaffle, or Hey, here's
all this food and it's shuarma and it's kebabs and

it's many eish and we're an Israeli restaurant. Like these
are things that are really difficult because I think you know,
those things tend to be unfortunately, just like more approachable
saying Mediterranean tends to be more approachable, and what you
get ultimately is a population of I would say, a
larger population of non Arab people that don't really understand

what they're eating and they're not educated on where it
comes from. And just the amount of people you know,
anecdotally that I personally have met who like don't know
that this food is Arab food or don't know like
what where the food comes from, which is so interesting
to me because it's not an experience that I think

many other cultures or ethnicities have. And so yeah, I
mean I kind of always joke that I feel like
a really close example is if you know, somebody started,
like an American person started making sushi and they're like,
this is American food and it's just not at the
same time. And so I think that the need to

assimilate for generations before Reems and I I have an
empathy for the want of safety that they were doing
and the want to make a living and the reasons
they did it. I think we kind of alluded to
that earlier. But where it's left us now is a
population of Arabs and diaspora that I think are harmed

for it. You know, like we don't have we don't
show up on the census, and it's all sort of
one part. It's all they're all different parts of the
one problem. And I think that when you take the
food and you don't give it its correct name, and
you don't or you give it the incorrect name, it
hurts all of us in ways that like we can't

even imagine whether it's at work or in Diversity and
Belonging initiative, it's not including Swanamina people, or whether it's
just in food ways and not being included or not
being included in the census, which leads to us not
having as much community support around our people are not
knowing medical statistics, Like I think they're all they're symptoms

of a bigger issue. And I think one of the
ways you combat that issue is through knowledge and shared
learning and shared experience. And I think food and food
ways are one of the main ways that people experience
and learn about other cultures. And I think if people
look at that in their own lives, you can apply

it to any culture of food that you really love
and maybe it's not your own, and you've learned something
about those people through that, you know. I think think
the main dishes of any culture, it says a lot
about where that culture has been, where they come from,
what their history is. And I think people being able

to experience those things and go to a Mexican restaurant
and learn about, you know, a certain dish and where
it comes from or why it's there or why it's
named something is an experience that allows them to learn
about a culture. And we just don't necessarily have that here.
And then when you add on, you know, missedomers or
incorrect labels, it becomes even more damaging and also just

hurtful and very annoying, Like it's so annoying, and I like,
I don't want to go. I'm sorry, Like there are
restaurants in LA that I like just don't want to
go to. And maybe the chefs are really nice and
they might be allies in some ways, or maybe they're not,
but like I would rather give please, Like I would
rather give my money to like an Arab person making

our own food rather than going to experience it in
a different way, you know what I mean? Like I don't,
I don't know, So I think that's kind of like
how I generally feel. And the less professional answer is
I just find it like really annoying. And I'm like,
come on, y'all, there's so many Listen, like, we're not
la is not New York. We have like not as

many Arab places to go. They're sort of few. You
have to seek them out a little bit more here.
But I'm like, come on, y'all, we're out here. Yeah,
go find go find us, like, go find give your
money to like this Syrian immigrant who moved here and
started this place that everybody loves. And you know, I yeah,

I don't know. There are a lot of big restaurants
are very popular restaurants here, and I'm just like, not
a dog. I don't want to pay I don't want
to pay thirty five dollars for to believe.

Speaker 1 (35:48):
Yeah, I think, I mean, I think it's twofold kind
of like who has access to resources versus who doesn't?

Speaker 3 (35:55):
Right, who gets highlighted?

Speaker 1 (35:57):
You know, there's that piece and what's palatable to the
American public and what's not right? Like I always say, like,
for for instance, I think like realms, we kind of
we do things a little bit different. Obviously, we honor tradition,
we honor the soul of air cuisine, but we play.

Speaker 3 (36:18):
Around with it.

Speaker 1 (36:20):
And one could argue, are we is this like americanizing
the food and we're like, no, it's just through the
lens of a Yasporic Palestinian Syrian by way of California.
But we I think when we first came on the scene,
I mean, there is something to be said about the

privilege that I have as English speaking, as this generation
that can like what do you call it, translate the
foods to a mainstream public in a way that's like
really compelling, like.

Speaker 2 (36:55):
A mediator almost lator.

Speaker 1 (36:58):
But that comes from a little bit of racism, like
that people don't they want the food, you know, And
so like I am this palatable character in some ways,
and that's a contradiction that I'm constantly like I don't
want to be. But it's like what do you call that?
The trojan horse?

Speaker 3 (37:18):
Right? But then once you come.

Speaker 1 (37:19):
Into Reams, it's still it's very warm. I mean, there's
nothing we're not tricking anyone, right, but we're also truly
ourselves and that's.

Speaker 3 (37:27):
Not for everybody.

Speaker 1 (37:28):
So we don't want to be a gentrifying space where like,
if you're going to come in here, you have to
deal with the community that we're in, just as much
as the food that you are obsessed with now, right
because either.

Speaker 3 (37:41):
Wrote about it or whatever.

Speaker 1 (37:43):
So we really and that's not for everybody, right, like,
and that just speaks to a like.

Speaker 3 (37:51):
A bigger problem of like.

Speaker 1 (37:53):
If you like the people as much as you like
their food, Like our food is not just for sale.
You can't just take some of it and leave the
rest of it. And I think that's why the American
public is so comfortable with our foods being represented by
people other than us. We're not we're not We're never
the tellers of our own stories because again, this dehumanization
of Palestinians. And it's particularly interesting now and I would

say like Reims has always been transparent, but I've heard
from counterparts in who are now? You know, like there
are other restaurants now coming out. I think there was
even just an article that was released today on Eater
about the Palestinian category on Google, and you know, people
are now calling their restaurants are maybe leading up to

this last four months, calling their restaurants Palestinian.

Speaker 3 (38:46):
And that was palatable enough.

Speaker 1 (38:47):
It's like cool, like it's this culture that's really beautiful.
But then when it came down to it, when we're
experiencing a genocide.

Speaker 3 (38:55):
It made people feel uncomfortable.

Speaker 1 (38:57):
So it's like they want to like it doesn't stop
at food, you know, and I think our food, at
least for me, and I would say for a lot
of people who get into like expressing their food ways
here in the US, Like, you can't just take some
of us our food and then dismiss the rest of
us or dehumanize the.

Speaker 3 (39:17):
Rest of us.

Speaker 1 (39:18):
And so I think that is the contradiction that we're
always dealing with, is like how can we offer this
beautiful culture but not tokenize it so it becomes depoliticized
because it is political, and if you're engaging with Palestinian
cuisine and consuming it, you can't just you can't do
it without either you know, being an active participant one

way or the other right and what is happening to Palestinians?
And so we kind of pushed the envelope on that,
and you know, for us at Reams, that has yielded
a real, ever expanding community of folks who have really
maybe a few years ago, knew nothing about Palestine. We

got to do it in a way that was right,
and so we were you know.

Speaker 3 (40:11):
We met people where they're at. We bring them along.

Speaker 1 (40:14):
It's not like we're like, you know, beating anything over
people's heads, but we're like, this is what it means
to be truly authentically ourselves. This is our story, this
is the history, this is the painful atrocities, and like,
if you're going to eat our food, you have to
engage with that in some way, Like it can't just
be comfortable and like it's cool to eat Palestinian food.
I don't want to see our food as a trend.

Speaker 3 (40:36):
Right, Yeah, So while it's while it's.

Speaker 1 (40:39):
Cool to see a lot of Palestinian restaurants now gaining popularity,
and hopefully, you know, Reams has paid some path for that,
we got to make sure that we're doing it in
a way that's intentional and responsible so we don't get
token zed.

Speaker 4 (40:57):
I think one just like Piggyback. One thought, one thought
that you brought up Roam that I thought was really
interesting was like being able to tell our own stories
and often we're not. We're not, And I think that
relates to like a lot of what we've talked about today.
But I mean, even like sharing our own experiences, like

you know, I don't think it's necessarily a choice to
be where you you know, to be who you are.
It is what you are. And I think ultimately there's
this real pressure for Arabs and in Palestinians as well,
to sort of let other people tell our story for us,
Let other people make the food, let other people photograph

the traumas and the joy is Like if you go
to any like art bookstore and try to find like
an Arab photographer photographing of their own people, whether it's
the wars or the joy or art, like, you'll find
maybe one, you know. And I've been to that and said, hey,
do you have any I'm looking for like this, and
I want it from an Arab person, And like the

only one really is sharing the shot? Who's I'm Persian,
But I don't know, I think it's I think it's
just really interesting how I think there's like a real
fear about talking about for a lot of us, about
talking about our own experiences publicly. And I think a
lot of that, a lot of that comes from just

like being sort of conditioned in this country to minimize
ourselves and minimize our identity.

Speaker 1 (42:31):
And I think essentially, well, there are real retributions for that. Yeah,
we get jailed, we get deported, we get fired from
our jobs. We don't get book deals, we don't get
show deals. Yeah, as we're experiencing. So it's like that's real.

Speaker 4 (42:53):
Yeah, And I mean a lot of the a lot
of the stuff we've a lot of the feedback we've
gotten on the show. I mean, early on, a couple
of years ago, we started getting feedback that. I mean,
there were like two or three when we first started pitching,
and I won't call out names, but they were like
major companies, and one of them was we already have

like our minority food show. Like that was one of
the literal pieces of feedback. And another one was and
again like I just I know, we've talked about Palestine
a lot, but again, like the show is not necessarily
centered around Palestinians. It's just us telling our own stories.
And one of the pieces of feedback we got was

they were worried that Reim and I like that our
identities were too inherently political. And it's like, okay, but
there's like nothing we can do about how you perceive us.
What we can control is saying, hey, we want to
make an Arab joy show, and we want to like

show off the things we love about our call. Sure,
and we want to talk about how great the food tastes,
and talk about stories like immigrant success stories of people
coming to this country, and yeah, we'll talk about the trauma,
and sure, we'll talk about the politics, because that's what
we're passionate about. But like to get that feedback. Even

a couple of years ago, when you know, it seemed
like everybody was sort of every culture or people were
getting their turn to sort of shine was I was like, really,
are we still? Are we still here right now?

Speaker 3 (44:31):

Speaker 4 (44:31):
And yeah, I mean it's gotten, It's gotten weirder as
time goes on. And you know, I don't know, no
show exists like this in the way that probably no
restaurant existed like Raims did when she opened it. And
I think it's going to take like someone who just
really believes and is a champion for Arab people, for

us to make something that just shows how much we
love our own p people and how excited we are
to be Arab and how excited we are to be Palestinians,
and how fucking awesome our food is and how great
our culture is and how fun and exciting it is
and all these things that people love and eat, we
just want to show them like where it comes from
and who we are, and in addition to that, show

that we're all regionally very different, like we call in
this country, every type of Arab food is called Mediterranean,
whether it's Moroccan or Lebanese or Egyptian, and they're all
so different, they're all wildly different. Yeah, and I think that, Yeah,
like the fact that we haven't been able to tell

this story is wild, you know, like the fact that
no one has and we've come really close. We've gotten
into deals before, we've gotten into shopping agreements more recently,
and sort of you know, the outcome felt punitive after
October seventh. And yeah, I think that ultimately the fact

that like we we and it doesn't you know, truly,
I hope it's me and ream. But like the fact
that no one has been able to tell this story
for a group of people that is so huge in
the Arab community, in the Muslim community, Like that no
one has been able to serve this demographic of people
with a food show is wild. And there's so many

of us who would be so excited. I would be
so excited, Like I would be bummed that it wasn't me,
but I would be thrilled that it happened for the community.
And I don't know if not now when you know,
like the time for the time for equity injustice as always.
And I think that's generally how I sort of feel

about the the show and just being able to like,
I just want to tell the story for my community
so badly, and yeah, I mean, I don't know, I
feel like I went on a bit of a tangent.
That's kind of where I feel I am right now.

Speaker 1 (47:02):
Well, in a time of in a time of genocide
where literally are people and this is not just past that,
it's not you know, there's a regional are the dehumanization
of Arabs is costing us lives. Yeah, so it feels
that much more important to do this work now.

Speaker 2 (47:24):
Yeah, people are so used to seeing us seeing Arabs
like traumatized, are used to seeing us in pain. They're
used to seeing our countries destroyed and seeing our buildings
turned into rubble. I think so much of our culture
is so beautiful, and so much of it is about
food and art and joy. I think it's really Yeah,

I would be so excited for that show too, because
I if I was a little kid watching that, I
would have felt so much better about myself. And to
your point, a couple minutes ago, Realm, you were talking
about how you're not exactly a mediator, but growing up
there's almost this like shame about having like you're not
Arab enough, you're not American enough. You have a foot

in both worlds. But it's really a strength, you know,
in your experience and in our experience, Like we can
use that put in both worlds to our advantage and
try to show the American community how beautiful our community is.
And I don't know, I think it's Yeah, I love you.

Speaker 3 (48:29):
Guys, That's what it comes down to it.

Speaker 2 (48:34):
Yeah, but I really do appreciate you both doing this work.
And yeah, reminding us that it's Arab culture isn't something
to be feared. I don't know that the humanization has
gotten to a point that it's just really terrifying. And
so I think the fact that even existing is like
political or scary, and yeah, you bring to your point,

everything is so much more digestive for people of an
Arab or then Muslim or whatever. Like in La we
have a huge Armenian community and they're really embraced, and
I would love that to happen for us too.

Speaker 1 (49:10):
The backlash of being Arab feels very real and visceral
right now, feels like we are in a time of
the years after nine eleven again, and especially with this
upcoming election in twenty twenty four, it's a really, I

think a scary time of censorship for Arabs in general
and Muslim communities. Regardless of who the candidate who wins
our political campaign, it's quite clear that the policies towards us,

you know, the foreign policy, but also domestically, how that
has translated into hate crimes against Arabs simply for being
Arab is a really scary thing. And so yeah, it's
just a new thing that we're going to have to
navigate in this.

Speaker 3 (50:15):
New era.

Speaker 2 (50:17):
Yeah, I think on that note, like community is so
important and I'm really grateful to continue to foster the
community around me as well. And I think with food,
with Palestinian culture in general, it relies so much on
us remembering and continuing to talk about it and not
letting anyone forget about it, and so I think food

is the same way. It's just reminding everyone this is
where it comes from. This is how important it is.
This is what it means to the culture. You can't
enjoy some of our culture and not all of it,
I guess, and I feel like that happens all the time.
I really appreciate you guys both being on the show
and talking a little bit about your stories. And yeah,
I can't wait to see the show happen day because

it will happen awesome.

Speaker 3 (51:02):
Thank you.

Speaker 1 (51:03):
Yeah, thanks for the work that I'm doing, especially as
it relates to food and hospitality. I was one of
the founders of an effort called Hospitality for Humanity, and
you can find us on at Hospitality the number four
pal P A L. You know, we continue to do

things at REEMS and you can see us on the
socials at REEMS California, and then you can obviously follow
my whereabouts at REEM.

Speaker 3 (51:38):
Dot A cel A S S I L.

Speaker 2 (51:41):
I could put all your links in the description as well,
but you're real. Do you want to be found on
the internet and if so, where.

Speaker 4 (51:49):
I don't know how much I want to be found
on the internet. I will plug that. I think everyone
should call their senators and demand a ceasefire immediately, and
also consider donating to one of many nonprofits, but the
one that I have is Gaza Emergency Appeal. And uh,
just ask for a ceasefire as much as possible. But
also if somebody demanded, they'll find me. Demand demand is fired.

Don't ask, sir, please can I have? Can I have?

Speaker 3 (52:19):
Are you?

Speaker 1 (52:22):

Speaker 2 (52:22):
But no, please, everyone that's listening, keep talking about Palestine,
keep sharing info from Palestinians themselves, and yeah three Palestine. Yes,
it could Happen here as a production of cool Zone Media.

For more podcasts from.

Speaker 3 (52:45):
Cool Zone Media, visit our website cool Zonemedia dot com
or check us out on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever.

Speaker 2 (52:51):
You listen to podcasts. You can find sources for It
Could Happen Here, updated monthly at cool zone Media dot
com slash sources. Thanks for listening.

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