Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"Wine-Washing" and the Question of Jewish Indigeneity

Michael Lumish

{Also published at the Algemeiner.}

UC Berkeley does not like Israelis.


On Monday, February 5, professor Ariel Handel lectured at the University of California Berkeley's Center for Middle Eastern Studies on his recent paper entitled, Wine-washing: colonization, normalization, and the geopolitics of terroir in the West Bank's settlements.

One would think that since the San Francisco Bay Area, and surrounding regions, are home to some of the finest grapes in the world that an Israeli expert on indigenous levantine grapes would have been met with considerable expectation.

He was not.

In truth, he was snubbed.

If there are any colleges outside of Evergreen State in the United States that are in no mood to speak with pro-Israeli Jews, those schools most definitely include San Francisco State University and UC Berkeley... the former home of free speech.

Handel is visiting California from the University of Tel Aviv to discuss, among other things, the meaning of the grape within the contest between Arabs and Jews around questions of ethnic authenticity and indigeneity within the Land of Israel.

In that paper, Handel, along with his co-authors Galit Rand and Marco Allegra, discuss how local Israeli wine producers use the ancient Marawi grape as a site of political-cultural dispute over the question of Arab versus Jewish indigeneity.

The question of indigeneity is the sport and, along with falafel and hummus and fattoush, Marawi grapes represent a ball-in-play.

Handel, Rand, and Allegra argue that, “the usage of sophisticated wine language enables normalization of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank in a paradoxical way that is emphasizing their location and blurring it at the same time.”

Central to Handel's thesis is the vinicultural concept of "terroir."
Terroir describes a set of special characteristics of a given place - geography, geology, climate, and human agricultural traditions - that incarnates in the uniques taste of its products, usually wine.
The notion suggests that the flavor of a wine is due to the character of its natural environment and how it is nurtured by the indigenous population and thus reflects its land and people. It is because Chardonnay, for example, is native to the Burgundy region of eastern France that its quality will never be quite the same as when grown in, say, the Jezreel Valley in the Lower Galilee and, therefore, can never really represent the terroir of that region.

The Question of Indigeneity

Handel insists, fairly, that "the grape is mute" on Jewish versus Arab claims to the Land of Israel.

Nonetheless, some scholars, such as Dr. Shivi Drori from Ariel University, use the vine as a means of establishing Jewish historicity.

In a recent New York Times piece, Jodi Rudoren quotes Drori:
All our scriptures are full with wine and with grapes - before the French were even thinking about wine, we were exporting wine... We have a very ancient identity, and for me, reconstructing this identity is very important. For me, it's a matter of national pride.
Rudoren also quotes Amer Kodash, the export director for Cemisan Cellars, a monastery near Bethlehem, claiming:
As usual in Israel, they declare that falafel, tahini, tabouleh, hummus, and now jandali grapes, are an Israeli product... I would like to inform you that these types of grapes are totally Palestinian grapes grown on Palestinian vineyards.
What I fail to understand, however, is how it is that professor Mandel, as a political scientist, is mute.

History as a field of knowledge is closely related to political science and is not silent on the question of Jewish indigeneity in the Levant and the Land of Israel.

It tells us very clearly that the Jewish people are the only remaining indigenous people within the small strip of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The Jebusites are gone.

The Hittites and Amorites are gone.

Even the neighboring Romans and ancient Egyptians are gone.

The Arabs who now call themselves "Palestinian" come from elsewhere.

Handel is correct that the DNA of an ancient seed of the vine cannot tell us who grew the plant.

The fact of old wine and new bottles cannot establish indigeneity between Jews and Arabs on that land.

Only history as a field of knowledge can do that.

Anti-Zionist Rhetoric within Middle East Studies

Handel's writings with Rand and Allegra in Wine-washing are riddled with the kind of anti-Zionist propagandistic language that is eroding the field of Middle East Studies because it no longer even bothers with any sense of historical justice or fair-play to non-Muslims throughout the region.

For example, in Handel’s introduction we read:
The process of growing integration between pre-1967 Israel and the West Bank has been the object of a large study of scholarship...
For millennia that region has been referred to as Judea and Samaria (or, in Hebrew, Yehuda and Shomron). It only became known as the "West Bank" after the Jordanian annexation in the spring of 1950.

So, the question becomes, why would a scholar use terminology that erases Jewish history within a question of Jewish history?

Handel refers to the "banalization of the Jewish presence in the West Bank."

What a strange phrase for an Israeli professor to employ.

Hannah Arendt famously used the "banality of evil" to describe Adolph Eichmann in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The idea then, as Handel knows, is to suggest that there is a normality, or conventionality, to evil.

Arendt described Eichmann as a functionary, a big cog in the big wheel.

Handel's usage is the same, except that instead of referring to the murderers of millions of Jews, he and Rand and Allegra, use it as a reference to Jews who wish to live on the traditional land of the Jewish people.

The implicit comparison is not only unjust and ahistoric, but vaguely grotesque.


  1. Trader Joe's carries Givron Galil Chardonnay. It's made in Judea. $7 a bottle.

    1. Chardonnay is not the point.

    2. We are talking about 3000 year old grapes.

      Not Chardonnay.

    3. Y'know, I love you, Trudy, but this is the first time that you've actually pissed me off.

      The point is that people are using the question of the vine for political reasons.


    4. "Cremisan Monastery" is part of the indigenous Palestinian SILESIAN Order. Seems like everyone except Jews is indigenous in "Palestine".

    5. Anyone who tends vines and grapes knows that there's nothing indigenous about any wine grape anywhere on the planet. All wine grapes are from plants that root stocks grafted onto top stocks. All of them. There in zero about wine grapes that can or ever will serve as a signpost for history or cultural roots. ZERO. There is no such thing as a 'native' winegrape that's a single plant from top to bottom. And the Arabs know this. Everyone knows this in the business. There are about 30-50 root stocks that are used for different types of soil and about 300 top stocks that are physically grafted on to them. Anyone who tells you they have volume production any other way is lying to you. And in fact there's almost no genetic lineage that can be traced back more than a few hundred years for any of it. Nor would you want anything made from something as old as the Arabs claim. It would taste like shit. In Homer, the ancient Greeks watered down their wine or mixed it with honey because it was thick and bitter. Even today in the region, an odd wine is Retsina which is made with pine tar (resin). And it is awful. But it's a method of preservation because the sugar content in those grapes is such that it rots in the 'indigenous' heat.

      The point is, that there is nothing 'indigenous' about wine any more than there is an indigenous tomato.

  2. "I would like to inform you that these types of grapes are totally Palestinian grapes grown on Palestinian vineyards."
    Palestinian is a derivative of "Palestine," which in turn is a colonial name, i.e., imposed on the land of Israel from outside. So what does Kodash mean when saying "Palestinian grapes grown on Palestinian vineyards?" He means Arab. He is really stating that the grapes and resulting wines are cultivated by Arabs. But stating it that way would take away a good deal of the luster of the political arguments being foisted on the unsuspecting and unknowledgeable, and undermines the neo-political, ahistorical argument for so-called "Palestinian indigenousness."
    No indigenous people ever called their home Palestine.

    1. Correction: Zionists referred to Mandate Palestine as their home until they could throw off that yoke with their declaration of independence. Replace "called" with "named."

  3. Anyone who doubts that Jews are
    the indigenous people of “Palestine”
    should consider this evidence
    from ancient Roman historians”:

    Also, the Bible/Tanach mentions Jerusalem more than 650 times. I know that this is true because I possess computer software that contains the entire Bible/Tanach, with the ability to search for specific Hebrew words, and automatically counts the number of results. This means NOTHING to political Far-Leftists, because they HATE the Bible/Tanach.

    The very first verse of the Hebrew-language Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes / Kohelet says that King David, [who was King of Israel], ruled in Jerusalem. Again, this means NOTHING to political Far-Leftists, because they HATE the Bible/Tanach.

    Last but not least, if the Jews are not indigenous to the Middle East, then why is their language – Hebrew – a Semitic Language, that shares many similarities with the Arabic language?

    For example, both languages have the rare property of being written from right-to-left. For more similarities, go to:


    How to Convict the New York Times
    of Unfair Bias Against Israel:


    Why Israel’s 1967 Borders are Undefendable:

  4. We don't need an appeal to the similarity with Arabic, which is not native to the Levant anyway. Iron Age Lebanon was inhabited by Phoenicians.
    Phoenician language was never deciphered. It was simply read by Abbe Bartholomew. He already knew the language as Hebrew.

  5. "
    Here are some popular Palestinian Arab surnames, and their meaning in English:

    al-Masri - the Egyptian
    al-Mughrabi - the Moroccan
    al-Djazair - the Algerian
    al-Yamani - the Yemeni
    al-Afghani - the Afghan
    al-Turki - the Turk
    al-Hindi - the Indian
    al-Hourani - the Hauranite (from southern Syria)
    al-Kurdi - the Kurd
    al-Ajami - the Iranian
    al-Shami- the Syrian
    Khamis - Bahrain
    al-Araj- part of Morocco
    Halabi - Aleppo, Syria
    Bardawil - named after a lake in Egypt

    I have yet to hear of anyone with the surname "al-Filastini."

  6. "“One of the most bizarre aspects of Russiagate,” writes Lears, “is the magical transformation of intelligence agency heads into paragons of truth-telling—a trick performed not by reactionary apologists for domestic spying, as one would expect, but by people who consider themselves liberals.”

    Cohen, a distinguished if often overly sympathetic historian of the Soviet Union, was even more alarmed. “Was Russiagate produced by the primary leaders of the US intelligence community?” asks Cohen, referring to former CIA director John Brennan as well as ex-FBI chief James Comey. “If so, it is the most perilous political scandal in modern American history and the most detrimental to American democracy.”

    This really caught my eye because Ive been having a lot of cognitive dissonance about Liberals championing the FBI/CIA/etc. It just didn't compute.

    1. But t does make perfect sense. Liberals are not in any way Liberals anymore, they are Progressives (State Worshippers), so they champion State security apparatus.