Saudi Paper Claims Israeli Falafel Stands Replace Turkish Shawarma in Moscow

A cook fries Falafel balls at a restaurant in Jounieh, north of the Lebanese capital Beirut, on October 17, 2014.

An all-out war between Israeli falafel and the Turkish shawarma has taken to the streets of Moscow, the London-based Saudi newspaper Al Hayat reported.

City authorities have clamped down on shawarma stands across the city, citing a regulation demanding “a minimum” space for selling food, which the stands, often no more than holes in the wall, do not meet.

The paper said Mayor Sergei Sobyanin’s policy was meant to ensure sanitary conditions and not target Turkish shawarma specifically, but some believe sour relations between Russia and Turkey, following the interception of a fighter jet by the Turkish air force last year, is behind the move.

According to the Saudi paper, the disappearing shawarma stands have been replaced by stands selling falafel, which is “largely perceived as an Israeli dish even though Arab merchants served falafel to the Russians long before the Israelis did.”

The paper said that on Russian search engines, falafel is portrayed as an Israeli dish, with dozens of businesses selling falafel cropping up in Moscow “where hummus, tabbouleh and other salads are also served, all under an Israeli banner.”

The paper claimed this is the result of a recent rapprochement between Russia and Israel that encouraged Israeli businessmen to invest in Russia, especially in the catering sector.

“Even though politics doesn’t dictate developments in the food industry,” the paper claimed, “they sometimes have political undertones. For example, a high-end restaurant in central Moscow removed ‘Turkish kebab’ from the menu and replaced it with ‘Syrian kebab.'”