Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant in Pittsburgh that serves food from nations with which the U.S. is in conflict — but it’s currently closed, due to death threats. The threats came in response to Conflict Kitchen’s food wrappers, which some say express anti-Israeli sentiments.
Conflict Kitchen says, “The text on this wrapper is taken directly from interviews we conducted with Palestinians living in both Palestine and the United States. Each section highlights the perspectives of multiple people.”
The restaurant describes its methods as an attempt to start conversations.
“Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus country.”
This month, for instance, Conflict Kitchen had planned weekly events in which diners could, through technology and a local proxy, have a question-and-answer session with a man currently living in Palestine.
As for the wrappers (pdf file), there’s no question that some of the text is controversial and might be offensive or upsetting to many.
“Water, land and government services are taken away from Palestinians and given to Jewish settlers.”
“At one protest, Israeli soldiers aimed tear gas canisters directly at protesters only a few meters away. When they shot our friend Bassim, it made a big hole in his chest and killed him.”
However, the stories and opinions shared on the wrapper didn’t just foster controversy and conversation. They were responded to, says Conflict Kitchen, with threats.
“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.”
Conflict Kitchen feels that the problems have been caused by misrepresentation of their stances in the media.
“[The media’s] insistence to continually misrepresent our food wrappers as “anti-Israeli messages,” shows a distinct lack of research into what is actually on the wrappers, a reinforcement of right-wing accusations, and thoughtlessness about our current situation.”
They further explain that the Palestinian wrappers are no different than the wrappers they’ve used to represent other cultures.
“[T]hey contain interviews on food, culture, the Palestinian Authority, settlements, dating, resistance olive trees, Nakba, movement and travel, and food customs.”
Conflict Kitchen also offered a commentary on the specific content of the wrappers.
“Perhaps it is hard for some people to hear that Palestinians are not happy with Israeli policies or the actions of some of its citizens, but to cast their viewpoints as simply anti-Israel is to reinforce the simplest, most polarizing, and dehumanizing reading of their lives and perpetuate the silencing of their voices.”
Conflict Kitchen will not reopen until police are able to establish whether there is a tangible threat to employees.