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Students for Justice in Palestine Restart Sabra Deshelving Campaign

7 mins read

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

UPDATES:

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.

12 Comments

  1. Anyone really interested in improving conditions for Palestinians will ask Hamas to end its senseless attacks against Israel and the catastrophic wars which follow in their wake. Anyone interested in seeing Israel withdraw from further territories will ask Hamas to stop making the withdrawl from Gaza look like a stern lesson against the wisdom of Israel ceding yet more territory to Palestinian control. Anyone who rejects antisemitism should realize that in practice, there is no difference between “From the River to the Sea Palestine will be Free” and the old Nazi slogan, “Out with the Jews!”

      • Your ignorance of the Middle East and Jewish culture even undermines your attempt at misogyny. “Dov” and “Berel” spelled without a “y” and male names. But I do appreciate your help in letting people know what BDS supporters are all about.

    • Hamas was only founded after decades of land theft, military occupation, and brutal siege on behalf of the state of Israel. In fact, it’s been proven that Israel FUNDED Hamas upon its inception in order to further politically destabilize the Palestinian authority.

      Endlessly pivoting to Hamas without asking where they came from or how they gained democratic support in the besieged Gaza Strip is nothing more than bad faith propaganda. The same is true of your equating Palestinian liberation from undeniable apartheid conditions to the horrors of Nazism. These right-wing manipulation tactics aren’t working anymore.

      • What an odd reply. Are you suggesting that Hamas’s control of Gaza is some kind of Israeli conspiracy and that the Gazans are so silly that they have been duped into supporting it? That actually sounds kind of condescending and even racist towards Arabs. Even if Israel had something to do with Hamas’s creation, what difference would that make for the practical question of how to deal with current realities?. We need practical solutions which do not require the use of time machines to change past events (as they are described in the anti-Israel narrative). Your talk of “ündeniable apartheid conditions” is disrespectful to people who suffered actual apartheid. I wish Palestinian apologists would stop Black-washing their cause by pretending it has any connection or comparison with Black struggles for freedom. And I am sorry, I have had enough encounters with people who shout about “Palestinian liberation” to know what their plans are for Israeli Jews.

  2. When have students been punished for antisemitic activity? When have antisemitic students ever been physically targeted? Your concern for student safety is misplaced and is a possible reflection of “Phoenix” bigotry.

    • Both Jewish and Palestinian students advocating for palestinian liberation get doxxed on Canary Mission and similar websites all the time, dipshit.

  3. It’s sad to see so many foolish children buy into the lies of BDS, SJP and Hamas. The educated know these groups exploit the ignorant and do nothing to bring peace.
    There is no apartheid and my family is proud to be part of a country that provides opportunities for all.

    • You’re absolutely right, I’m so grateful to your country for providing my family such opportunities as… my great grandfather being murdered by a bomb planted in a supermarket by a zionist militia; my great grandmother on the other side being expelled from her homeland and unable to reunite with her son until two decades later; my great uncle being murdered for his “radical” theater work with Palestinian refugee children; and my parents and entire extended family being discriminated against in Israeli housing, lingual, educational, and legal systems.

      I’m sure I’ve missed some other aspects I should be grateful for so I hope you’ll forgive me. Sure, these are ultimately anecdotes but they signify just one Palestinian family’s experience with Israel’s continuing and increasingly exposed violent history.

  4. This same Strauss company that is supposedly complicit in Israel’s bad actions towards Palestinians sold the majority of their Israeli operations of their ice cream subsidiary to Unilever some years ago.

    Yes, Unilever, the same company whose subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s recently announced a discriminatory boycott of territories in Israel. So, boycotting Sabra products damages the Strauss company’s efforts to succeed in the Israeli-based company that is now mostly owned by Unilever, which is engaged in a boycott of Israel via Ben & Jerry’s.

    A perfect example of the silliness of intersectionality, turning it around this time to highlight the ridiculousness of BDS supporters.

    • Just amazing. Bet they have no problem using their intel based computers or drugs developed in Israel. Performative action designed to make them feel better and push the hate agenda.

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