After Death Threats, Palestinian Food-serving U.S. Restaurant Closes

Conflict Kitchen in Pennsylvania serves cuisine only from countries with which the United States is - as the name suggests - in conflict.

A Pennsylvania restaurant serving Palestinian food that is quite literally wrapped in Palestinian messages has closed until further notice after receiving death threats, the restaurant announced over the weekend.

“We have received a letter today containing death threats and we will be closed until the credibility of the letter can be established by the Pittsburgh police,” Conflict Kitchen announced on its Facebook page Saturday. “We hope to reopen shortly.”

The letter was delivered to Pittsburgh police, which later notified the restaurant, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“That’s messed up,” Massachusetts resident Zach Phillips said in a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “You do a good thing by bringing attention to foreign foods and cultures to people here.”

Conflict Kitchen, whose Palestinian menu includes hummus served with Arabic bread ($4.50) and maftoul, Palestinian couscous with slow-cooked chicken and chickpeas, garnished with parsley and yogurt ($7.50), serves cuisine only from countries with which the United States is in conflict, switching every few months. It has previously served food from Iran, Afghanistan, Venezuela and North Korea, and augments its menus with events, performances, publications and discussions about the region in focus at the time.

The wrappers used for takeout feature interviews with Palestinians, on topics including food (“Musakhan is the national dish of Palestine. It’s just a round piece of bread with chicken, onions, and a ton of sumac”), protests against the West Bank separation barrier (“When they shot our friend Bassim, it made a big hole in his chest and killed him”) and the summer’s war with Hamas (“How can you compare Israeli F-16s, which are some of the best military planes in the world, to a few hundred homemade rockets?”).

Some have described the messages as “anti-Israel,” a characterization the restaurant firmly rejects.

B’nai B’rith International wrote a letter to the Heinz Endowments late last month to express dismay that the $50,000 grant it gave Conflict Kitchen was being used for what it called “anti-Israel propaganda.” Heinz Endowments president Grant Oliphant said the grant money was not being used for the restaurant’s current program.

“We would not fund such a program, precisely because it appears to be terribly at odds with the mission of promoting understanding,” Oliphant said.