Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
As a group, we, the members of Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine have decided to pursue boycott as a tactic in hopes of contributing to ending of the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Since 1967, Israel has occupied these territories in violation of international law. As of 2005, Gaza is no longer under occupation, but remains under a state of siege.
The occupation has allowed for the consistent violation of Palestinian human rights through home demolitions, restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, violence by Israeli settlers directed toward Palestinians, confiscation of Palestinian land and countless other attacks of the basic human dignity of Palestinian people. The siege of the Gaza Strip restricts the movement of basic resources, including food, reconstruction materials and sanitation technology, from entering Gaza. We see all of these actions as violations of Palestinians’ fundamental human rights. We believe boycott is the most effective, nonviolent tactic available to pressure the Israeli government to end these discriminatory practices and return to the negotiating table. As a group, we believe it is important to boycott companies which either support the apparatus of occupation or profit from the continued occupation of Palestinian territories.
An internationally distributed brand, Sabra is partially owned by the Strauss Group, Israel’s second largest food and beverage company. As a company the Strauss group actively supports the Israeli Defence Forces, specifically the Golani Brigade, which is notorious for its poor human rights record. Their relationship includes providing the Golani Brigade with products for training missions and personal care packages. While made unavailable on their English language website as a response to pressure from activist groups, this relationship is outlined on the Strauss Group’s Hebrew web page. The Golani Brigade, and the IDF as a whole, play an integral role in the continued occupation of Palestinian land and blockade of the Gaza Strip.
We believe Swarthmore’s purchase of Sabra Hummus contradicts its commitment to social responsibility. If the college wishes to continue to foster this commitment, it has a responsibility to remove Sabra products from the coffee bars on campus. The act of boycotting Sabra is not as difficult as it may seem. There are numerous locally produced hummus brands sold in the Philadelphia area and Sharples itself produces its own hummus for the dining hall. With some creativity, we believe that either of these could present a viable alternative to Sabra.
In a recent meeting with Stu Hain, the Vice President for Facilities and Services Office, we were told that the college does not believe that boycotting a product is a constructive way of creating dialogue or change. However, Swarthmore’s past decisions on these issues present a different reality. In 1990, following years of student activism, the Board of Managers divested from companies supporting South Africa’s Apartheid regime. Apartheid ended four years later. A more recent example of Swarthmore boycotting a product for ethical reasons comes just a few years ago. The “Kick Coke” campaign was part of a nation-wide effort on college campuses to boycott Coke due to its poor labor practices and evidence that it supported paramilitaries in Colombia. Swarthmore did indeed boycott Coke, though it was reinstated a year later following some improvements in the ethics of Coke’s business operations. These two examples demonstrate that not only does Swarthmore have a history of using its purchasing power to enforce ethical practices, but that it also has a history of succeeding.
However, simply put, the College will not change its practices, no matter how unethical, on its own. It is the responsibility of students to push the College towards change. In order to convince the College administration that Sabra should be boycotted, we need your support as students behind this proposal. We need to demonstrate to the administration that Swarthmore’s student body takes its commitment to social justice very seriously and that we will not allow Swarthmore to support human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine through its purchasing power.
Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine is holding a Sabra Boycott interest meeting on Monday, February 27th at 9 PM in Science Center 128. Please join us.
For more information about the illegality of occupation and human right abuses in Israel- Palestine, please follow these links to UN Resolutions on the issue: