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BDS Pressured Celebrity Chefs To Boycott Israeli Food Festival. Chef Gabrielle Hamilton Withdrew.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has issued a petition signed by more than 70 food industry notables (including cookbook author Julia Turshen and the People’s Kitchen Collective) urging the chefs invited to Israel’s Round Tables Food Festival to reconsider their attendance.

The open letter was addressed to chefs like Chef Isa Mazuchi of La Palta and Chef Gabrielle Hamilton (owner of the Lower East Side’s Prune and recent winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for Most Outstanding Chef), among others. “While Israel hosts international chefs in Tel Aviv for Round Tables, the Israeli military will be counting the calories allowed into Gaza only forty miles away, keeping the entire population on a state-sanctioned starvation diet,” the Palestinian BDS National Committee wrote. The festival, the petition asserts, is part of Israel’s larger “gastro-diplomacy” efforts, “aimed at distracting attention from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and food resources.”

For four years in a row, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has organized the Round Tables Food Festival, in conjunction with American Express. Round Tables brings chefs from Hong Kong, Columbia and NYC to Israel, for the sake of creating a cultural give-and-take. This year, the festival is offering a first in the form of a ‘Female Chefs: Special Edition.’ Each participating international restaurant sends its head chef and team to spend a week creating a tasting menu in Israel, inspired by the Israeli restaurants they visit, which American Express card-holders can then buy for a subsidized price.

Hamilton has reportedly withdrawn from the festival, due to pressure from BDS.

Shira Feder is a writer at [email protected] and @shirafeder

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