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Who owns hummus?

David Silverman/Getty Images Lebanon plans to charge Israel with violating a food copyright by marketing provisions such as hummus and falafel as Israeli, Fadi Abboud, the president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association announced Monday. Abboud contends that these foods are historically Lebanese, and that Israel’s appropriation of them has cost the Levantine country profits “estimated ...

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David Silverman/Getty Images

Lebanon plans to charge Israel with violating a food copyright by marketing provisions such as hummus and falafel as Israeli, Fadi Abboud, the president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association announced Monday. Abboud contends that these foods are historically Lebanese, and that Israel’s appropriation of them has cost the Levantine country profits “estimated at tens of millions of dollars annually.”

Lebanon’s case will likely rely on “the feta precedent,” said Abboud. Six years ago, Greece was able to win a monopoly on the production of feta cheese from the European Parliament by proving that the cheese and had been produced in Greece under that name for several millennia.

The origins of hummus remain shrouded in mystery, but attempts to claim the food as a “national dish” remain a reliable way to start nationalistic squabbles across the region. Bringing this case to the courts, however, is unlikely to win the Lebanese government points even with a domestic audience. Most likely, it will simply reinforce the belief that while Hezbollah readies its rockets against Israel, all the Lebanese state can muster is frivolous lawsuits.

David Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq. @davidkenner

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