For years, the Israeli occupation has appropriated Palestinian and Middle Eastern culture, particularly when it comes to their cuisine. Israelis regularly attempt to pass Arab staples such as hummus and kunafa as their own, but Arabs are always there to set the record straight.
So, when Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud seemed to play into the problematic trend by promoting an Israeli restaurant, people were quick to criticize him and shed light on the importance of maintaining a firm stance against Israel.
Massoud, who stars as Aladdin in Disney's live-action adaptation, has been under the limelight this past month with the release of the film on May 24.
Social media users recently brought to light a controversial video shared on the actor's blog, Evolving Vegan. In Episode 4 of Evolving Vegan, which dates back to November 2018, Massoud reviewed Israeli restaurant AVIV in Portland, Oregon.
In the introduction to the episode, Massoud talked about the difficulty of maintaining a vegan diet in a Mediterranean household, saying he has missed foods such as shawarma, shish tawouk, and labneh. He went on to capture his experience at the restaurant and interview its head chef Tal Caspi, who was born in Israel to Argentinian parents.
AVIV offers "authentic plant-based Israeli food and drink" and its website's homepage includes the phrase "Shalom Habibi," with shalom being "hello" in Hebrew while habibi is Arabic for "my love."
Footage from the episode has been making the rounds on social media over the past week. Many Arab users called out Massoud for promoting a restaurant that claims Arab food as Israeli and for generally supporting the Israeli business, all the while Israel continues to oppress the Palestinians and commit cultural theft.
In response, Massoud tweeted that having grown up in Toronto, he has always visited Israeli restaurants offering Middle Eastern food, claiming he doesn't "really understand the politics of it."
Here's how it went down on social media: