SPJP Calls for Boycott of Sabra Hummus

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:

UN Resolution 242: Illegality of Occupation

UN Resolution 446: Illegality of Israeli-only Settlements

UN Resolution 1860: Status of Gaza and Illegality of the Blockade


  1. Awesome! It’s great that SPJP is trying to convince the College of how it financially supports injustice in Palestine, and how students aren’t okay with that.

    Nicely done op-ed, too!

  2. I completely support this effort and think it’s been a long time coming. I personally stopped buying Sabra at least year ago for this reason. I have missed picking up hummus and chips packs at Kohlberg, so can I motion that if Swarthmore DOES end their contract with Sabra, they replace it with a good hummus? The hummus in Sharples is terrible. Do they even use tahini? Please no Sharples hummus, unless someone figures out how to properly make it.

    • Do you have any suggestions for brands that you’d want to see in the coffee bars? We’d like to propose a list of alternatives to dining services, especially varieties that come in individual serving containers, and would really welcome any suggestions.

  3. There’s a local brand of hummus, Freshapeel, made in Lancaster PA and using some local ingredients. They do make small size containers.

    • Nice. I don’t really know of any other local brands that make individual serving-sized packs, but have y’all with SPJP considered doing something similar to what’s done with Sher-e-Punjab at Kohlberg and Margaret Kuo’s at Science Center? You could have little packs of hummus (maybe in compostable containers like those used across the campus?) and fresh pita bread shipped in daily from a local Middle Eastern restaurant. That would be delicious. I don’t know how economically feasible that is, but hands down it would be the tastiest option.

  4. This effort is ridiculous. The College is not going to divest or boycott Israel. Such campaigns at other universities have failed, and for good reason.

    • I agree. Not all Israelis are anti-Palestinian, just as not all Palestinians are anti-Israel.

      This Israel-Palestine issue is so incredibly complex. It might just be the way that I read this article, but, it seems to me that this approach targets the wrong group (a company only partially owned by an Israeli food company that is associated with the Golani Brigade)

      • In what way is SPJP targeting the wrong group? We are targeting the apparatus of occupation, not Israel or Sabra alone. A boycott of Sabra (which IS a supporter of occupation both financially and politically) is one step in articulating a condemnation of the Occupation. Not Israel, but the occupation.

  5. This is a great idea. If Swat wants to maintain its status as an institution with strong ethical guidelines and a sensitivity to global oppression, it can’t continue to work with companies like Sabra.

    This isn’t a radical proposition: as much as we talk about the Swat bubble, our school’s policies have significant effects on the outside world. We either need to stop painting ourselves as a socially conscious school or get our money out of companies supporting the occupation.

    Best of luck, SPJP and allies!

  6. We should boycott Sabra because its partial owner (which does extensive business in Israel) provides personal care packages for Israeli soldiers? Really?

    Lots of people, including many staunchly anti-war people, sent personal care packages to US soldiers in Iraq; does that make them complicit in everything objectionable about the US military’s conduct in Iraq?

    Is there something here I’m missing? Because this makes no sense to me at all.

  7. Maybe I’m missing something, but how does boycotting an American company that is partially owned by the Strauss Group, and only very weakly tied to support for the IDF, cut to the issues of finding ways to resolve conflict in the Middle East? I’m all for social action and combating human injustices, but boycotting Sabra? That’s NOT the answer.

    • I think the co-op’s hummus selection is lacking! But maybe that’s because I find hummus with onions in it fraudulent and repulsive, and Bobbi’s hummus, which seems to be the co-op’s favorite, often has them.

      • The original hummus lover is in agreement with you. The hummus at the co-op is not real hummus…though it is better than Sharples.

  8. although focusing on hummus may not be the best idea, this article actually raises a really really important point: Swarthmore needs to put its money where it’s mouth is (if i am using this expression correctly.) The College perpetuates an image of social responsibility but its actions speak otherwise (eg the whole fracking divestment thing). I feel like the College can acheive more in maintaining its integrity. Social action requires ACTION not complacency and not a bitchslap from the student body.

  9. I had not realized that Swarthmore successfully ended Apartheid. How different the lives of South Africans would be without the boycotting practices of this liberal arts college.

    I’m sure ceasing to purchase hummus will soon liberate the Palestinian people from decades of oppression and bring democracy to the Middle East. I will feel better about my own life knowing my school was so influential.

  10. Hey SPJP,

    I support what you’re doing, but I think it might be helpful to outline the ways in which a boycott of Sabra is merely a small piece of a larger global movement for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions that is in part coordinated by Palestinian organizers themselves (just as Swarthmore’s actions against apartheid were part of a larger global movement as well).

    In talking to other students, I’ve heard a lot of questioning about the causality referenced within your article (i.e. “how will JUST boycotting Sabra make any impact?”), concerns that might be allayed by painting a fuller picture of the movement as a whole.

    Also, why the focus on Sabra as opposed to divestment from companies that sell equipment etc to the Israeli military, as has been the tactic at other schools? Is it because of difficulty in gaining access to info on Swat’s investments, or is this just one piece of a larger future campaign on campus?

    In any case, nice job placing ethical institutional practices at the forefront and good luck!

  11. Lest we forget that hummus can actually bring people together:

  12. you can always get homemade hummus at Paces cafe! we quit using Sabra this semester and have been making hummus in house.

    come get your pita and hummus at Paces even if sharples and the coffee bars don’t change their ways.

    • Always get the homemade hummus Cafe pace! Sabra hummus home. One semester of hummus, PITA Sharples, bar, cafe, and tempo changes.

  13. This is the part of the site that explains what the Strauss Group donates to, for those of you Hebrew speakers following along at home:

    כחלק מתוכנית התרומות ,חטיבת המכירות של שטראוס ישראל תרמה לחיילי גדוד 13 בחטיבת גולני .התרומות מיועדות לקיום פעילויות רווחה, תרבות וחינוך, לצורך סיוע כספי לחיילים בודדים או בעלי קושי כלכלי וכן לרכישת ציוד ספורט, חבילות מזון, ספרים ומשחקים הנתרמים למועדון בו מבלים החיילים.
    יוטבתה- המחלבה שלנו בדרום תורמת בדומה לגדוד שועלי שמשון בחטיבת גבעתי.

    “As a part of our charity program, the sales division of Strauss Israel has donated to the 13th Division of the Golani Brigade. These donations were meant to support/initiate welfare programs, programs in culture and education, funds for soldiers without family or soldiers experiencing financial difficulties, sport equipment, care packages, and games and such for the social club where soldiers spend their off time.”

    I don’t see any mention of providing money for materials for training, weapons, or any of that stuff. I think there’s a difference between funding the occupation giving the soldiers basketballs. And as other posters are mentioning, the Strauss Group is only one of the backers of Sabra Hummus, so I think this is kind of paltry.

    Don’t get me wrong: I am a Jew who is very much for divestment and against the occupation. Maybe it’s good to start on campus where people can feel like they can actually make a difference, but aren’t there bigger fish to fry?

  14. A question has come to mind several times as I’ve read about this, and I can’t find the answer in any of the articles/comments.

    It was mentioned that SPJP had talked to Facilities, but did anyone ask Dining Services if they would agree to purchase another brand of hummus or refrain from purchasing hummus snack-packs all together before starting the boycott? It seems to me that given the large number of products for sale at the coffee bars, it wouldn’t be that huge of a deal for them to replace it with another snack, especially if there was a large group of students who felt strongly about it.

    If someone did ask and Dining Services said no, then please disregard this… but if not, I’m not sure why this wasn’t the first course of action taken?

    • Yep, tried that. Stu Hain said they don’t believe in “product censorship”, and say that until a cheaper alternative is found, then they will stick to Sabra. Anyone know any cheaper options?

  15. I too boycott sabra hummus, not only for my beliefs but because they charge 3.99 for 10oz! Walmart makes a DELICIOUS Marketside hummus (their own brand in the refridgerator section). This stuff is a thousand times better than sabra. Im eating it right now! Plus its like 3 bucks for 14 oz. Enjoy!

    • No, let’s not boycott a hummus linked to human rights violations by purchasing hummus at the multinational chain that is probably responsible for more human rights violations than anything ever. Gah.

  16. It amuses me that some people allow their personal preferences for hummus to impede their willingness to support the boycott.

  17. Is it me? Am I the only one who sees the irony of an Israeli company calling itself “Sabra”? Did Israel forget the atrocities it committed in Sabra & Chatilla in Beirut (directly/indirectly) in 1982? Talk about being insensitive!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Phoenix

Discover more from The Phoenix

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading