Uber Eats calling Palestinian restaurant “Israeli” sparks fury

Amid the Israel-Hamas war, Uber Eats is facing backlash after a Palestinian restaurant in Canada expressed concerns over recently being mislabeled under the Israeli food category in the Uber Eats platform. Uber Eats now says the issue is fixed, but the restaurant owner isn’t yet satisfied.

On October 7, Hamas led the deadliest Palestinian attack on Israel in history. In response, Israel subsequently launched its heaviest airstrikes against Gaza. As of Monday, at least 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, the Associated Press reported, citing the Israeli government. More than 19,400 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, the AP said.

Since then, pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protests have been seen around the globe as tensions escalate—with many calling for a lasting ceasefire amid the rising death toll in the conflict. In addition, calls for boycotts have emerged as one way for consumers to express their disagreements over their stances. Coffee giant Starbucks and fast food giant McDonald’s are two recent examples of companies that have faced boycotts over the way they responded to the issue.

Over the weekend, Palestinian pizza restaurant Levant in Toronto, Canada, raised concerns on social media over Uber Eats’ mislabeling them as the restaurant said they were listed under the Israeli food category and not under the Palestinian.

“We are a Palestinian and Lebanese pizzeria, so this morning we got a screenshot from one of our customers showing us that we are being listed under the Israeli food category of Uber Eats. This was obviously shocking to us, we are Palestinian and Lebanese, we sell Palestinian-Lebanese inspired food, we are not Israeli,” Levant co-owner Nader Koasmi said in a video posted to TikTok.

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Since posting the concerns to the restaurant’s Instagram page, many of their followers called out the platform for an explanation for why the shift in the listing took place.

According to local news channel City News Toronto, Koasmi said that he researched and found other Middle Eastern type restaurants under the Israeli category.

“We looked into this a little bit more, what we found was actually more shocking than just us appearing. There were over 308 restaurants listed under the Israeli category that included all Middle Eastern type restaurants including Palestinian, Lebanese, Afgani, all that,” Koasmi told City News Toronto.

Newsweek could not independently verify the number of restaurants listed under the Israeli category but found no official Palestinian category on both the website and mobile app version of the platform. However, an Israeli category did appear on the Uber Eats mobile app and there is a Middle Eastern category as well.

Uber Eats
Uber Eats Food Category
Uber Eats

However, users are still able to search “Palestinian food” where currently only two restaurants appear.

In a statement emailed to Newsweek, corporate communications lead for Uber Eats Canada, Keerthana Rang said the issue relates to how search works on the Uber Eats platform, adding that just like Google, a search can return different types of results including “exact” and “similar”.

“This unintentional issue has been fixed, we’ve apologized to the restaurant, and our engineering teams are working on changes to help prevent it from happening in the future,” Rang said in a statement.

According to Uber Eats Canada, for Israeli and Palestinian terms, the platform has deployed a change to ensure only “exact match” results are returned, adding that if you search for those terms now, the results will only show restaurants with menu items with that exact term in their name.

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However, in response to the platform’s explanation, Levant posted to their Instagram calling out the explanation as a first step, but demand “a comprehensive investigation, an apology, and enhanced representation for Palestinian cuisine throughout the entire global platform.”

“Regarding the details, the explanation received was not clear. Essentially, they attribute the problem to crossover results, where search results may include other cuisines when searching for a specific region. However, the broader crossover results only surfaced when searching for ‘Israeli’ cuisine, not when searching for Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian, Syrian, Egyptian, etc. This indicates the existence of engineered anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab bias, necessitating further clarification on its origin,” Levant said in an Instagram post.

Uber Eats
The startup screen of UberEATS. Amid the Israel-Hamas war, Uber Eats is facing backlash after a Palestinian restaurant in Canada expressed concerns over recently being mislabeled under the Israeli food category in the Uber Eats platform.
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