Conflict Kitchen Forced to Temporarily Close Due to Death Threats

In Depth

Two days ago, Pittsburgh’s Conflict Kitchen was forced to close due to death threats. Next time someone tells you Muslims are the only ones who threaten those who disagree with them with death, do us all a favor and show them this story.

Kitchenette covered the root of this issue, but just to give you a quick refresher: Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant that highlights the cuisine of countries with which the US is in direct or indirect conflict. Their most recent cuisine is Palestinian food — which has some people really unhappy. They claim Conflict Kitchen is being anti-Israel by serving Palestinian food, which, OK, sure, that makes sense.

Alright, there’s more to it than that. Originally, the entire objection was over a talk held at Carnegie-Mellon University in conjunction with Conflict Kitchen. People whose cousin’s roommate’s friend’s sister went to the talk have frequently claimed that what was said there was “anti-Israel” and “really bad,” though I’ve yet to see anyone specifying what exactly was said that was so out of line. Now, possibly sensing that the aforementioned lack of specifics was preventing that line of objection from getting any traction, the virulently pro-Israel crowd has shifted their focus to the wrappers in which Conflict Kitchen serves its food, which contain perspectives and cultural information from actual Palestinians.

On Friday, November 7, Conflict Kitchen posted the following to their Facebook page:

“We have received a letter today containing death threats and we will be closed until the credibility of the letter can be established by the Pittsburgh police. We hope to reopen shortly.”

Because death threats are a totally reasonable response to a restaurant having food wrappers you don’t agree with. Sure. In the interest of full disclosure, let’s include the particular wrapper quote pissing Conflict Kitchen’s opponents off:

“The Israeli settlements in the West Bank perform three key functions. The first is territorial; it’s about fragmenting and isolating Palestinian communities. The second is to control the distribution of resources. Water, land and government services are taken away from Palestinians and given to Jewish settlers.
“The third is surveillance. In the Occupied Territories, all the settlements are on hills; this gives them a military advantage and lets the settlers watch the Palestinians. If Palestinians cross boundaries to harvest olives, the settlers can see this and attack them.”

There’s absolutely nothing anti-semitic in that quote, and to suggest otherwise is patently absurd. Frankly, there’s not even anything anti-Israel there — just anti-Israeli policy regarding illegal settlements. There’s no mention of the destruction of Israel or incitement of violence against Israelis; they merely express a viewpoint that could best be summed up as “hey, we’re kind of getting crapped on here, guys.” This furor seems to amount to “how dare Palestinians have opinions that differ from the generally-accepted pro-Israel philosophy regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, and how dare you share those opinions with Americans who may not have been exposed to them.”

It’s also worth noting that according to numerous major international organizations such as the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, the Red Cross, and the International Court of Justice, Israeli settlements in the West Bank are wildly illegal. Even the US’s consistently hypocritical position on the settlements has been, roughly speaking, “they are bad and illegal but we can’t really speak out against them because the pro-Israel crowd will tear us to pieces if we do.”*

Moreover, Conflict Kitchen’s (largely conservative) pro-Israel critics are still propagating the frankly insane notion that the restaurant has some responsibility to include the perspective of both sides of the conflict. Funny, I don’t recall anyone requesting they do that with any other menu. We’re still stuck on this utterly ludicrous idea that every issue must have two sides presented in all situations. The US isn’t in any kind of direct or indirect conflict with Israel (unless you count the fact that Israel has a long, proud history of selling our military secrets to China), and you have to be delusional or disingenuous to claim our support of Israel doesn’t mean we’re in conflict by proxy with Palestine. So why, exactly, should Conflict Kitchen also be required to present an Israeli perspective if they want to present a Palestinian one?

Pro-Israel people: you have plenty of other avenues to spread your viewpoint. Actually, you have pretty much all the avenues, considering the slightest criticism of Israel in America is met with vehement, frequently unhinged denunciation. All you’re succeeding in doing, ironically, is exhibiting the exact sort of shrill, unyielding zealotry you claim to be the exclusive province of your opponents.

* The only US President who specifically stated the settlements were legal when pressed was Ronald Reagan — a view with which his own State Department openly disagreed.

Update: This post originally incorrectly listed illegal Israeli settlements in both the West Bank and Gaza; Israel actually dismantled and disengaged all Gaza settlements in 2005. The West Bank settlements are still going strong, though.

Image via Anna_Pustynnikova/Shutterstock.

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