Did Syria’s President al-Assad really eat with Israelis?

I’m still chuckling over a humorous piece in The Onion about the Mideast peace talks in Anapolis earlier this month, titled “Syria Attends Mideast Peace Talks For Free Continental Breakfast”. Perhaps The Onion‘s reporters, their reputations preceding them, weren’t permitted in the same press room with the mainstream press? Whatever happened, they did manage to get a couple shots of Syria president Bashar al-Assad.

syriasassad.jpgBut what is on the table in front of al-Assad in that formal conference portrait?

And why doesn’t al-Assad’s big plate of Danish rolls have a shadow? The table is highly polished, and everything else on the table, no matter how small, has a reflection.

Can you say “photoshop”?

Naughty, naughty Onion.

The Onion continued with their tongue-in-cheek explanation:

In Tehran, meanwhile, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was not invited to the talks, was highly critical of the summit, claiming that the European-style breakfast was indicative of a pro-Israel bias.

“It is quite obvious that the Annapolis summit will offer little real substance to those in attendance,” Ahmadinejad said. “The little single-serving boxes of cereal are not even sizable enough to constitute a real meal.”

Nevertheless, many within the State Department said they were encouraged to witness a number of delegates working together to clean up a cup of spilled coffee. At one point, the Israeli prime minister even offered to give up extra napkins to Syria’s president in order to stop the liquid from flowing over the side of the counter.

Funny stuff, but it made me stop and wonder–did all those people really eat together? The way I understand the Arab food symbolism, Arabs can have tea with anyone. This is an expected part of a meeting. An airing of opinions, as well as the hoped-for consensus, always takes place in the presence of those ubiquitous little tea glasses.

But food is a different matter. Eating with someone is a statement of acceptance, at least out in the boonies among the country people. I wonder how the diplomats interpret it. And if the Syrian entourage really did eat with the Israelis.

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