The ability to accurately describe one’s restaurant is of the utmost importance to restaurateurs. But for years, Google — a crucial source for business listings — did not include “Palestinian” as a restaurant category, despite allowing restaurants to use “Israeli,” “Lebanese,” and other country-based descriptors. “It’s not allowing us to describe ourselves as we are,” Marcelle Afram, chef and owner of the Palestinian pop-up Shababi, told Eater. “There’s no excuse, outside of it being blatant racism.”
In a previous statement to Eater in January, Google said it would be implementing an update that would allow restaurants to self-classify as Palestinian soon. And now, it appears it’s possible. Duzan, a Palestinian restaurant in Astoria, Queens, posted to Instagram screenshots of its Google listing as a “Palestinian restaurant,” alongside an image of the previous listing, in which it was called an “Israeli restaurant.” Duzan captioned the change with “News! Been fighting for this for 15 years!”
The change appears to be new. A quick search for restaurants that identify as Palestinian on their websites or social media are still listed as “Middle Eastern,” as restaurants manage their own listings, and thus have to update the category themselves. We’ve reached out to Google for more details about the change.
“I think it’s great!” says Mona Leena, chef and owner of California-Palestinian restaurant Lulu on Solano. However, she acknowledges Palestinian restaurants have been asking for this change for long before the current war on Gaza put the Palestinian experience at the forefront. Indeed, Abdul Elenani, owner of Ayat in New York, says he’s been asking Google to change its listing options since 2020, and Afram has also sent numerous requests to Google over the years. “Why does it take years to add such a simple option? Why has it been so controversial to add ‘Palestinian’ as a cuisine descriptor?,” asks Leena.
Afram also notes that the tag seems to only be available to brick-and-mortar restaurants, not pop-ups like his, as there’s no physical address associated with the business listing. “Nonetheless, I am very happy to see this small, but important step take place,” he says. “While we, the people, are subjected to working within some confines of corporate America while working towards our greater cause of Palestinian liberation, these steps of acknowledgement and having our voices heard are important to the greater picture of establishing our autonomy as a whole.”
It’s clear it’s taken this long because “Palestinian” is a politicized identity. But as calls for a ceasefire in Gaza become ever more popular in America, the change shows that there is at least support from diners for Palestinian cuisine and culture. It is a small victory, says Afram, but one he hopes will amount to much more, “when we apply pressure to have our voices heard.”