Journalist, Future TV - Beirut, Lebanon
Suzy is a television news journalist who works for Future TV in Beirut, Lebanon. She reported extensively on the 'Hummus War' for the network's nightly news service. Future TV was founded in 1993 by Rafik Hariri, a former Prime Minister of Lebanon. The channel supports the views of Lebanon's Future Movement.
How significant is the hummus war between Israel and Lebanon to the Lebanese?
It is of a great significance, because there is an ongoing conflict between Lebanon and Israel, but it is a war of bombs and missiles. This time, maybe with social habits or food we can defeat them. Because on the ground, sometimes we could, sometimes we couldn't. But this is a different type of war.
As a TV reporter, how important is the issue of the hummus war to your viewers, and how important is hummus in the lives of your viewers?
I'm sure it's pretty important, because hummus and tabouli are main components of the Lebanese cuisine. Anyone who comes to Lebanon is usually served hummus, tabouli with meat at every restaurant. So I'm sure it's also pretty important to the viewers of such reportage.
Is it also considered a Lebanese heritage?
Yes, it is also a Lebanese heritage. At international events, you would find that the most important cuisines are the French, the Italian and the Lebanese is also one of the international cuisines. That's why Lebanese cuisine is particularly significant, with its two basic components; hummus and tabouli.
When you did the news story, what was your reportage about? And what did you find out through this reportage? From what angle did you cover the story?
When it was said that they were about to make the biggest hummus dish in Lebanon, and the biggest tabouli dish, Lebanon drew a lot of attention in that regard, and there was huge mass media coverage. I wasn't the only one covering the story, lots of Lebanese and non-Lebanese stations were covering the story as well. Lebanese satellite channels. It was a significant event that drew huge mass media and political presence. Even a lot of Lebanese people showed interest in that. We wanted to do something that would stand against Israel, and use such a thing as a weapon, and we felt that we won. We exerted a lot of efforts so that our hummus dish would break the record.
It was something that regular people could help with? They participated?
True. A lot of Lebanese cooks participated; even a lot of regular Lebanese people attended that event and participated personally. They all tasted the hummus dish, finished it and finished the tabouli dish as well. People were happy. They showed a lot of support.
Happy that they gained advantage over Israel at something?
Yes, maybe, yes.
They were happy they defeated Israel at something.
How did people react to your reportage? Did anybody call? Did people write any comments on the internet or something telling you that the reportage was good?
Actually, I received a lot of feedback and positive comments. A lot of my relatives and friends called me. People even stopped me in the streets to tell me that they liked the reportage. They were happy to see something from the Lebanese heritage such as the hummus dish.
The question being asked frequently among people is whether hummus is Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian or Israeli. How important is the answer to that question to the Lebanese people and to the Lebanese economy? Is it of any significance?
Yes, I think it is of a great significance. Some Lebanese citizens who live abroad, in America, Canada and Europe, tell me that hummus is being marketed as an Israeli product, whereas Lebanese hummus is not being bought. That's why that was really significant. The Lebanese hummus is already in international markets. You can find it all over the world. It is well known in all countries. But when Israeli exports began hitting international markets and hummus was marketed as an Israeli product, not a Lebanese one, that affected the Lebanese product negatively.
In your opinion, what should be done to stop that?
That event was very helpful, and we have to continue working in this direction, setting up activities that support campaigns and support this aim. This can be done outside Lebanon, too. Lebanese abroad can market this product more, maybe through embassies. There are activities that can be done.
In the reportage you mentioned the words "the Israeli enemy". Is that how you view Israelis in the hummus war? And is this a....
No, not a challenge. I mean the fact that you see Israelis as enemies in the hummus war reflects that you consider Israelis enemies in real life.
Indeed. We consider Israel an enemy at all times, and we were happy to be able to fight them by all means.
Talk to us about the current relations between Israel and Lebanon, since not everybody knows.
At the time being there is no field war, but there's an ongoing conflict with Israel, and we are against all its constant provocations. Even after the 2006 war was over, Israeli violations never stopped; Israeli air force constantly flying over our land, in our skies and in the South, Israeli tanks constantly trying to cross our southern borders. Several times shepherds have been kidnapped. They were only herding their sheep on their land. Several kidnappings have occurred. Also there is the issue of oil claims. They deprive us the oil from the territorial waters.
Do you also think hummus is just another phase of this war? Do you think Israel is trying to claim hummus as its own?
Yes, exactly. Israel is trying to fight us by all means. So this also is a new war through food.
What is that?
I am from Beirut. I don't live in the suburbs, and was not hit by any bombs or raids during the war. I'm not also a supporter of Hezbollah, nor of Mr Hassan Nasrallah, but as a Lebanese, I'm against Israel. And since they are trying to fight us on that level, I was happy to fight them with this tool. I'm not from the south, nor am I a supporter of Hezbollah, but I could fight Israel as well as I consider it my enemy, even though I don't belong to that team. I fight through resistance. Since I'm not a supporter of Hezbollah, I fight my own way.
Since you are a reporter, and you are young woman, can you imagine a more optimistic future when Israelis, Palestinians and Lebanese would sit at one table and eat from the same plate of hummus?
This is possible, but personally, I cannot do that. Outside of Lebanon, Lebanese meet Israelis in Europe, America, or anywhere. A plane might have Israelis, Jews and Palestinians on board. They constantly run into each other; in streets, malls or anywhere outside of Lebanon. But I can never sit at the same table with Israelis.
But would you ever imagine that there could be peace between them?
No one can ever answer that question. But I wouldn't like to sit at the same table with them. I am talking about the Israelis, not the Palestinians.
Would you like to taste hummus in Tel Aviv?
I would like to taste it, but not in Tel Aviv. I would like to know how different it is from the Lebanese hummus. I would like to find out whether they copied the Lebanese hummus right.
How often do you eat hummus? And what do you like about it?
Personally, I eat it a lot. I just had hummus and tabouli for lunch. We eat it very often.
What do you like about it?
The taste. I don't know if we are just used to because we grew up eating it, or because we really like it. Whether it's a tradition that our bodies got used to, or I genuinely like it.