Swarthmore Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) relaunched their campaign to deshelve all Sabra products on campus last Wednesday, Nov. 3. Sabra, which produces Mediterranean food and dipping products, including hummus and guacamole, is currently sold by Swarthmore at the Science Center Cafe, Essie Mae’s Snack Bar, and Kohlberg Coffee Bar.
SJP members and leaders announced the club’s deshelving effort to the broader Swarthmore community last Wednesday on Parrish Porch. During the event, the club amassed signatures to petition against the college’s investment in Sabra products and handed out stickers for students to place on Sabra products in the dining areas around campus, which state “THIS PRODUCT FUNDS APARTHEID.”
One student who attended the protest, “Alex,” discussed their reflections on the protest.
“The status of Sabra as a method of funding the Israeli occupation forces was made clear by the students and the campaign,” they said. “The speeches made by the current SJP members not only resonated the urgency on what is currently happening in Palestine, but also resurfaced past movements in the college that were started by previous SJP members. This gave the movement more gravity since this has been a goal that has been going on for years by student activists.”
Alex also supported SJP’s idea of placing stickers on Sabra products around Swarthmore’s dining facilities.
“The practical and simple goal of adding a sticker to Sabra products on campus added a sense of purpose to all attendees. SJP’s focus on general student engagement aligns with their goals of liberation and equality,” they said.
In an interview with The Phoenix, one member of SJP explained why the club is focusing on deshelving Sabra products.
“Sabra products have a unique linkage to Israeli apartheid. Much of their proceeds go to the Strauss group [the Israeli company that owns Sabra], which funds the Israeli Defense Forces and provides them care packages,” he said. “So those funds go directly into maintaining the Israeli Apartheid that kills Palestinians, uproots them from their homes, and puts them [under] refugee status. Since Swarthmore claims to be an institution predicated on Quaker values, there is no reason why we should be funding something that actively moves away from peace and equality.”
SJP’s focus on deshelving Sabra products is a part of a greater international movement known as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The BDS movement advocates efforts to economically pressure Israel to follow international law through actions such as boycotts of specific products linked to Israel. BDS labels Sabra as one of many companies that support Israel’s violations against Palestinians 一 Puma, HP, and Pillsbury are all companies that the BDS movement also campaigns against for discriminating against Palestinians by operating in the occupied Palestinian territories and funding ID systems that track Palestinians’ movements.
“Palestinian activists have repeatedly said that adopting BDS is one of the most effective things that Americans can do as people who are living in an imperial core,” said “David” ’24, who is part of the leadership team in SJP. “Boycotting Sabra products is a small change we can do to stop supporting Israel’s human rights violations. It seems like it would be insignificant, but it has a large impact for people in Palestine.”
Activist groups, including SJP, Sunrise Movement, and Jewish Voice for Peace, want Swarthmore to completely divest in areas such as fossil fuels and Israeli products. However, Swarthmore has a unique policy on investments.
“The policy states that we have a responsibility to manage the endowment to yield the best long-term financial results in order to fulfill Swarthmore’s educational mission, rather than to pursue other social objectives,” wrote Swarthmore President Valerie Smith in a statement released in 2019. “The Board has consistently reaffirmed this policy and communicated frequently with the campus community, including as recently as 2018, after considerable engagement and deliberation.”
President Smith re-established her stance in a statement sent to the Swarthmore community on Nov. 10, 2021. In an email sent out to the Swarthmore community, Smith stated how the college’s investments “support more than half of [the] operating budget each year. [They] allows [Swarthmore] to admit students, regardless of their financial need, and support the research, teaching, and co-curricular activities that define a Swarthmore educational experience.”
BanTheBan is a project created by activist groups under SwatDivest that is working to reverse this policy in hopes that the college will take in ethical considerations when deciding to divest.
David commented on the college’s policy banning divestments.
“Swarthmore has a particular rule that it will only consider money in its investment practices, which is why we’ve decided to focus on Sabra specifically because products that a school buys are not considered an investment,” said David. “The school has already shown with the way that they responded to the previous effort to ban Sabra that they are willing to be at least somewhat responsive.”
In response to previous campaigns against Sabra products, the administration placed a second Hummus brand for students to purchase, but still continues to shelve Sabra products.
“As people who can get the student body excited, especially now that we’re in-person, we can push for what people are interested in seeing,” said David. “Boycotting Sabra products is something we can actually change right now and make a real difference.”
Photo Courtesy of Lauren Mermelstein
Nov. 11, 9:38 p.m.: The Phoenix has retracted names of students initially mentioned in this article out of concern for the students’ safety.