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More than hummus: renewing the call to boycott Sabra

7 mins read

On March 3, 2018, Students for Justice in Palestine launched a petition to end the sale of Sabra products on campus. Within days of launching, over 500 students and other community members had signed. Today, three weeks after the initial launch, the number of signatures continues to rise.
We are calling on the college to end its sale of Sabra products because of the company’s documented ties to human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Sabra Hummus is a joint venture between PepsiCo and the Strauss Group, a multinational corporation and Israel’s largest food and beverage company. The Strauss Group materially supports and sends care packages to the Golani Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces, a fact that was once stated on the company’s website but has since been removed due to pressure from pro-Palestine groups. Even by the abysmal human rights standards of the IDF, the Golani Brigade is particularly brutal: since its inception, the Brigade has carried out countless human rights violations against Palestinians — particularly in Hebron and in the siege on Gaza (Operation Cast Lead) from 2008-2009 — including arbitrary murders, assaults, detentions, home invasions, and arrests of children. Furthermore, the Brigade’s role as an occupying force violates international law: Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and its 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem are all illegal according to the United Nations. For many Palestinians, including Palestinian students at Swarthmore, the Occupation is a painful and constant reality.
The campaign to boycott Sabra at Swarthmore is situated within a broader international movement to hold Israel accountable for human rights abuses and abolish its “three-tiered system of oppression: colonialism, occupation, and apartheid.” In 2005, Palestinian civil society called for the boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions of Israeli state institutions as a nonviolent strategy to pressure Israel to comply with international law and universal principles of human rights. Modeled after the successful South African anti-apartheid campaigns of the last century, the BDS movement aims to highlight the immoral and illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and to stigmatize the many human rights violations that continue to be an everyday reality for many Palestinians. Since 2005, dozens of companies, university student governments, workers’ unions, churches, and other organizations have publicly joined the BDS campaign by changing their institutional policy and practice to adhere to its goals. Prominent artists and academics — including singer Lorde and gender theorist Judith Butler — have also engaged in the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which similarly calls on members of the international community to refuse to attend academic and cultural events supported by state funding from Israel.  
At Swarthmore, this effort isn’t a new one. In 2012, SJP, then Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine, first launched a campaign to boycott Sabra. Initially, the group’s requests were denied, given the reservations of the vice president of the office of facilities and services about boycotts as effective strategies for change. This position contradicted the 1989 Board of Managers’ decision to divest from South African apartheid and the college’s decision in 2006 to boycott Coke as part of a larger national campaign. Drawing on Swarthmore’s commitment to social responsibility and our history of engaging in principled boycotts, SJP continued to advocate for the boycott, and after a few months, Sabra hummus disappeared from campus shelves. Tired of controversy, it seemed, the college had quietly removed the products in response to the community’s demands.  
But today, Sabra products are back, sold as hummus and guacamole packets at Essie Mae’s and the coffee bars in Kohlberg and the Science Center. Since Swarthmore reinstated Sabra products after the SJP members involved in the original campaign graduated, the vast majority of our current community members are unaware of the group’s past activism — and its outcomes. Yet Swarthmore continues to profess its commitment to teaching students responsible citizenship, citing values of social and ethical concern. Thus, not only does the sale of Sabra products on campus contradict our professed values, but it is also inconsistent with our past practices.
Furthermore ending the sale of Sabra products would not be an inconvenience to our community; there are many alternatives to Sabra hummus available. For example, local, Philadelphia-made alternatives to Sabra hummus include Bobbi’s, Helen’s, Wakim’s, and Moshe’s.
Given the structure of the global economy in which corporations have the power to influence state actions, we cannot deny the political nature of our preferences as consumers. Especially given our college’s unique position as a private institution with significant political clout and financial agency, it is clear that stocking Sabra hummus is not just a question of chickpeas; rather, the choice reflects our community’s stance on defending human dignity. By providing resources to the Golani Brigade, the Strauss Group both endorses and normalizes the IDF’s brutal practices. By continuing to sell Sabra products, Swarthmore joins in that tacit endorsement. The continued sale of Sabra products on campus should be disturbing to every Swarthmore student who cares about human rights. This is not merely a question of brands, but about an immoral and illegal assault on Palestinian lives and dignity. It is a question of Swarthmore’s commitment to using its institutional power to intervene in situations of injustice: will we choose to affirm the fundamental human rights of all people, including the many Palestinians who have suffered at the hands of the Golani Brigade and continue to live under occupation? Or will we, again, stay silent?

18 Comments

  1. What a joke. If you don’t like Sabra hummus, don’t eat it. And you’d think Palestinian apologists would be the last one to lecture anyone on else human rights. Clean up your own camp before you point fingers at others.

  2. I enjoy walking by Sabra Hummus at the grocery store. It reminds me to check BDS news. Israeli soldiers shooting peaceful Palestinian protesters on Fridays makes me loose my appetite for chickpeas altogether.

    • Then you’re a moron because those “pissful protesters” are heavily armed but you are such a simpleton that you don’t even check the pictures about thoose pissfuls or maybe a rabid antisemite ready to believe every horror about us. All in all, our products would be wasted on you so all’s for the best. We won’t apologise for remaining alive.

  3. I tried that hummus once and it was enough for me to throw it in the trash. No other reason is needed.

  4. Sabra could make a least some symbolic efforts to distance itself from the underbelly of the brutal American client state. I love their products, and am a Pepsi shareholder. But unless and until they show some progressive empathy…

  5. Recently, I listened to a story about boycotts against Israel and I learned of the connection with Sabra Hummus.

    So you know what I did?

    Ran right out and bought Sabra Hummus. And I’m going to keep on buying it a lot more often.

    GOD BLESS ISRAEL.

  6. I don’t understand the anti Israel There are two million Arabs living in Israel. And they want to stay because they have more freedom more money better living conditions .Do you want to hurt these 2 million people?

  7. Hello I am from karachi Pakistan proudly supports loves Israel and Jewish people… I was Muslim before but now proud Zionist.. No one told me to convert or to be Jewish.. When I saw and understand the reality of Israel and Jewish people and the things going on with innocent Jewish peoples and with their holly land Israel.. And I proudly love to buy Israeli products… Buy Israeli products..

  8. It’s unlikely these boycotts have an effect on Sabra’s bottom line. A surprising number of people don’t listen to propaganda.

  9. Israel has offered peace deals several times. Jordan made peace with Israel. Egypt made peace with Israel. I’ll be enjoying some sabra products in a few hours. They’re very good!

    • Who do you think puts out the most propaganda? Powerful nations like the USA and Isreal or Palestinians? We have many US politicians who adamantly state ” we will support ISREAL NO MATTER WHAT.” Which seems to be a loyalty oath to ISREAL. What if Isreal were to violate the US constitution then? These politions are supposed to take an oath to uphold the US constitution, not an oath to the president or to Isreal or any other country. With an attitude of no matter what, don’t you think there would be some willful blindness there? Be careful. It is so easy to cherry pick the facts. The Jews have suffered because of the willful blindness of others in the past. It should have been a lesson learned.

      • I am a Muslim and do you know what I am not going to pick sides at all. I buy Palestinian dates but that doesn’t mean I’m going to boycott Israeli products. I’ve seen Muslim and Jewish unity and history has reflected this throughout history. For example, in countries like Bosnia and the Balkans. I don’t agree with everything Israel does to Palestinians but there are stories where I see Palestinians misbehave too. There are Jews in Israel that want to unite both groups and leave harmoniously, but some Palestinians don’t think and go yehud and do silly things like randomly slap ultra orthodox haredi Jews and put it on tik tok. Even I would not do such a thing to anybody! I believe that a lot of these pro Palestinian campaigners are hypocrites. For example, let’s talk about football. I know lot of religious sheiks that support teams like Liverpool. Now there was a Israeli player called yossi benayoun. Now a lot of these so called religious people told us to boycott Pepsi and Coca Cola because of its ties to Israel. But when I said what about boycotting watching Liverpool because of benayoun. Do you know what they said? It’s football it’s alright. It doesn’t apply because we love Liverpool and football. So is football more important then your Palestinian brothers? The moral of point is that you can’t have it both ways! This is not a sweet store where you can pick and mix. This is life! And instead of doing all these anti Israel campaigns what pro Palestinian is work together with non right wing zionists to promote Jewish and Muslim unity. There’s loads of Jews and zionists that criticise right wing Zionism and Netanyahu. For example, Haaretz is a famous liberal newspaper in Israel that’s highly critical of its governments.

  10. When you boycott Sabra you are hurting Pacific Northwest US farmers and Mexican farmers. Chickpeas for hummus are from US and Hass avocados from Mexico go into the guacamole. But yes do go ahead and think you’re hurting Israel.

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