Friday, June 22, 2007

Gefilte Fish Violence

Here's a piece I wrote about a year ago, when violence was raging in the Muslim world over remarks made by the Pope which were viewed as insulting to Islam. Surprisingly, the recent British knighthood of Salman Rushdie has not seen the same reaction, though just you wait. Anyway, enjoy:

Christian Broadcaster Pat Robertson Again Sparks Controversy
Comments on gefilte fish lead to another round of religious violence

By Adam B. Cordover

Pat Robertson has done it again. Robertson, the anchor of the internationally syndicated Christian program “The 700 Club,” created a firestorm with his latest tirade on a religious symbol.

“Have you ever tasted gefilte fish?” the preacher quipped. “I swear, it’s like the devil dumped the waste of Hades on your taste buds.”

According to the Orthodox Union, the leading organization in Kosher designation, gefilte fish generally is whitefish deboned, chopped, and formed into a fish loaf or ball. Esteemed as a symbol of fertility and fruitfulness, the gefilte fish has adorned the tables of Jewish households throughout the centuries.

As has been the routine in recent times, the comments stirred the Jewish community around the world into a violent frenzy. Jews in Jerusalem were seen spitting on Western tourists. In London, members of the faith gathered in front of Buckingham Palace and burned crosses. And in what might be the most gruesome protest of them all, Jews in New York gathered in Times Square and lynched a pig while chanting “Death to the Potbelly! Gefilte Forever!”

Tony Snow, press secretary for U.S. President George W. Bush, distanced the president from Robertson’s comments. “The president has repeatedly stated that he believes Judaism is a religion of good food. He has eaten gefilte fish on many occasions with his Jewish friends, and each time he has been satisfied. Though Mr. Robertson is entitled to his own opinion, his statements in no way reflect the dietary tastes of the president.”

Elsewhere, Robertson’s comments have received praise. “Gefilte fish is a vile example of the primitive Jewish nature,” opined Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. “Reverend Robertson simply stated the obvious. The Jews have a grotesque sense of taste, and their refusal to accept this statement of fact shows how barbaric these people can be. In order to show Venezuelan solidarity with the gefilte-hating population of America, we will send subsidized bags of pork rinds to the inner cities of New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. Maybe this will help rid your country of the scourge of that dastardly Jewish fish.”

Reaction from American Jewish leaders has been mixed. Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League, condemned both Robertson’s comments and the Jewish violent response. “Robertson is a hate-monger and should not have defamed the great gefilte fish, a food with a proud tradition on our holiday dinner tables. But I also reject the lynching of that poor pig. I call on my co-religionists to protest in peace and allow the swine among us to graze with a sense of security.”

Other Jewish leaders have not had such a balanced response. “When you defame the gefilte fish, you defame the very core of the Jewish soul,” proclaimed Shelley Rubin, head of the militant Jewish Defense League. “It is time for Jews worldwide to take up arms in the name of the Prophet Moses and the superior cuisine he represents. Death to the Potbelly! Gefilte Forever!”

Pat Robertson could not be reached for further explanation. His comments come on the heals of successive waves of Jewish violence in reaction to various leaders’ disparagement of Jewish foods, including French President Jacques Chirac’s 2003 criticism of kugal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s jokes about bagels and lox in the fall of 2005, and Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fatwa against matzah balls in February of this year.

The author is a law student at American University’s (AU) Washington College of Law and is also pursuing a masters in international affairs at AU’s School of International Service. He personally hates gefilte fish.