Remember "freedom fries," America's post-9/11, Francophobe name for French fries? Now thousands of Israelis who can't stand Turkey want to rename Turkish coffee, a long-time national favorite, as black coffee. Or maybe even "Israeli coffee."
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Channel 2 reports that an Israeli woman recently wrote a Facebook status reading, "I call on Elite [Israel's leading coffee maker] to change the name of its coffee to black coffee. I really have no use for anything Turkish these days." Turkey supported Hamas during Israel's just-adjourned war with Gaza, and the leader of its Islamic-oriented government, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, doesn't hesitate to vent his antagonism at the Jewish state.
"The time has come to change the name of the coffee to black/Israeli/tasty/wonderful or some other kind of coffee," wrote another Facebook poster. "Just not Turkish! This offends the sensibilities of the nation, which is liable to boycott the product!"
In Israel, Turkish coffee is popularly referred to as botz, Hebrew for mud, because of the thick layer of grounds at the bottom of the cup. However, there were no reports of anyone suggesting that Elite rename its coffee "Mud."
Company seeks to contain consumer revolt
Strauss Group Ltd., the food conglomerate that owns Elite, heard from many offended Turkish coffee drinkers, and hurried to assure them that there's nothing Turkish about Elite Turkish coffee except the name.
"It's important to note that the coffee is produced in Israel in the city of Lod," Strauss stated. "The name 'Turkish coffee' comes from the method used to grind the coffee beans, and not from the source of the beans, which come from countries such as Ethiopia, Colombia and Vietnam."
Strauss added that the writer of the viral Facebook status "will be interested to know that the Turks do not drink coffee that is ground Turkish-style, a method the [Turkish Ottoman Empire] developed in lands that it ruled, such as Israel and the Balkan countries."
The story was picked up the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman, which noted, "The rosy decades-long relationship between Turkey and Israel took a big hit in May 2010 when Israeli soldiers attacked the Mavi Marmara, a ship owned by the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (HH) that was participating in a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. During this period, most Israeli coffee shops started boycotting Turkish coffee, refusing to sell it."
Interestingly, Israelis are said to be the world's No. 1 per capita consumers of turkey meat. This shouldn't be a problem, though, because the Hebrew word for turkey is hodu, which is also the Hebrew word for India, whose relations with Israel are just fine.