DePaul University suspends sales of Sabra hummus; other campuses to follow?

Sami Kishawi reports on his blog Sixteen Minutes to Palestine:

Today marks another win for the global boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement against corporations that profit from severe human rights violations. Chicago’s very own DePaul University just announced that their dining services will be discontinuing the sale of hummus manufactured by Sabra, an Israeli brand known for its vocal and material support of Israeli Defense Forces. The administration has temporarily suspended the sale of Sabra products and will likely move towards permanently banning the brand from campus.

A little over two weeks ago, members of DePaul’s Students for Justice in Palestine expressed concern over the sale of Sabra products after discovering that Chartwells, which provides dining services to the university, had introduced the Israeli-brand hummus to food and dining facilities throughout campus. Acting on their concern, the students compiled research and revealed that the Strauss Group, co-owner of Sabra, has direct monetary ties with elite Israeli military forces currently and historically involved in the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. One week after bringing the issue to the attention of campus administrators, the university informed campaign organizers that Sabra products are set to be removed from shelves for the remainder of the school quarter and will most likely not be sold on campus in the future. (Read the email sent to administrators at the end of the post.)

The ultimate success of this modest divestment campaign isn’t that it resulted in the removal of a product from campus cafeteria shelves but, rather, that it has undoubtedly set the framework for future campaigns in college campuses throughout the United States. With exactly 156 colleges and universities using Chartwells for their campus dining needs, the BDS movement against IDF-sponsoring companies like Strauss Group and Sabra can potentially reach national heights. By discontinuing the sale of Sabra products, DePaul University has made its stance clear: Any product or company involved with flagrant human rights violations against Palestinians or any other people does not mirror the principles on which the university is founded and is therefore not welcome on campus. The administration’s quick response indicates the importance of preserving and respecting Palestinian rights by divesting from companies that do the exact opposite.

Email sent to DePaul administrators:

Hello Stephanie and Joe,

My name is Shirien and I’m part of Students for Justice in Palestine at DePaul. I’m writing you because it has recently come to our attention that Chartwells has started selling Sabra hummus products at DePaul. Many SJP members, as well as several other students, are deeply disturbed about this development. SGA President Ross R., as well as DePaul alumni Ben M. (both CC’d) recommended that we get in contact with you both in order to assist us with this matter.

The reason why we are concerned is because the company which manufactures Sabra hummus, the Strauss Group, has been a voice of support for the ongoing Israeli occupation through its ties with Israel’s military. This is apparent in their vocal support and material sustenance of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), namely the Golani Brigade. The Golani Brigade, Israel’s elite force, is known for its history of severe human rights violations. Many instances of these violations are well documented, from the assassination of Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin to the torture and humiliation of Palestinian detainees. Because of this, a boycott campaign against Sabra is happening at many universities in cities across the nation.

Many of us students are concerned about DePaul affiliating with a company with such strong military and political ties. We feel that continuing the sale of Sabra products at DePaul is in violation of our Vincentian values, which require us to stand against injustice. This goes for any other companies affiliated with human suffering.

We would like to meet with you both so that we can discuss this matter more in-depth. CC’d to this email are key board members from SJP, as well as Erez, who is on the Fair Business Practices Committee. We want to voice our concerns and perhaps present alternative hummus brands that are more socially conscious. We hope that you can hear us out and help steer us in the right direction of how to go about addressing this.

Would it be possible to set up a meeting some time next week? I included everyone in one email thread so we can all be in the loop. Please let us know what you think. Thank you for your time and consideration!

Sincerely,

Shirien

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine | Tagged , , ,

{ 24 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Les says:

    Kudos for the Philly BDS folks who dreamed this up and probably endured more than a little ridicule. You have led the way.

  2. hophmi says:

    What did the Golani Brigade have to do with Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination?

  3. pabelmont says:

    Wasn’t DePaul the university that denied tenure to Normal Finkelstein? are they turning around, perhaps, a little?

    • Walid says:

      From Huffington Post:

      Princetonians Call For Sabra Hummus Boycott
      First Posted: 11-19-10 01:29 PM | Updated: 11-19-10 01:31 PM

      A student campaign at Princeton is calling for a boycott of Sabra hummus because the company that manufactures it provides Israel soldiers with care packages, the Daily Princetonian reports.

      The Princeton Committee on Palestine has created a referendum that asks the school’s dining services to sell an alternative hummus to Sabra on campus. Committee President Yoel Bitran wrote that his group “objects to the fact that Sabra is the only hummus brand that is offered in most university stores and that students who wish to eat this traditional Arab food are forced to buy a product that is connected to human rights abuses against Arab civilians.” The referendum will be voted on by the student body next week.

      Bitran created a Facebook event called “Boycott Sabra Hummus” that ran from Nov. 14 to Nov. 18. In response, pro-Israel campus group Tigers for Israel created an event titled “Save the Hummus! — Vote Against the Sabra Hummus Boycott.” So far, virtual support for the latter overwhelmingly outweighs the former.

      Several students told the Princetonian that they were “confused” by the referendum. And as IvyGate opined, “It’s HUMMUS, people … If you’re really that bored, go picket American Apparel or something. Leave the late-night snacks alone.”

      link to huffingtonpost.com

      • kapok says:

        If you’re really that bored…

        How easy and convenient to sneer from Olympus.

      • Les says:

        Add that comments were invited and make most interesting reading. The BDS campaign marches ever onward as more and more people realize they can do something to oppose occupation and ethnic cleansing.

    • Keith says:

      PABELMONT- Yes, it was DePaul that denied Finkelstein tenure. How sweet it is that this is occurring there!

    • eGuard says:

      Of course they are that one. That is why I know “DePaul”! And probably these current students were not there when that happened. While we are at this, anyone heard anything from Dershowitz lately, since this ?

      • RoHa says:

        The ghost of Finkelstein still stalks the DePaul campus. Dersh needs to perform an exorcism.

        (Since both F and D are Jews, the exorcism from the Rituale Romanum won’t work. What is the Jewsih exorcism rite?)

  4. A more relevant concern would have been the treatment of the workers of the service company that provided their food, as well as the relative treatment of Sabra workers.

    • Walid says:

      A strange turn of events; a former anti-boycotter, Debbie Schlussel, conservative political commentator, radio talk show host, columnist, attorney, and super Islamophobe has decided to boycott Sabra Humus and other Strauss foods simply because Strauss caved in and she asking other Jews to join her in the boycott. The BDS group should send her a thank you note.

      November 18, 2010, – 12:59 pm

      DISGUSTING: Sabra Hummus, Elite Candy Cave to Israel Boycott Crowd

      By Debbie Schlussel

      As longtime readers know, I’ve been a fervent supporter and promoter of Sabra, the Israeli brand of hummus that has dominated the hummus market, even in the Israel-hating Muslim world (where it is the #1 hummus brand and gets in despite anti-Israel embargoes because of packaging and labeling maneuvers and contortions). But I can no longer support this brand and I urge you to pass over Sabra and any other products made by Strauss, its Israeli parent company. That’s because this hypocritical Israeli company has now given in to those supporting the Muslim boycott on Israel.

      Uber-Kapos: Israeli Hummus & Candy Company Boycotts . . . Israeli Military

      Apparently, Strauss no longer supports the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) because of pressure from Americans who boycott Israel and support divestment. Yup, the same IDF, whose members risk their lives to protect Strauss’ very existence. It’s so incredibly moronic, it’s beyond belief:

      An Israeli company that co-owns Sabra, the number-one selling hummus brand in the United States, has removed support for the IDF from its English-language website after a video circulating the internet criticized the company’s support of Israel’s “human rights abuses,” according to a press release issued Thursday by the Philadelphia branch of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement.

      Strauss Group, which recently highlighted its “adoption” of the Golani Reconnaissance platoon and other Israeli soldiers on its website, has taken down its support for the IDF, according to the press release. . . .

      Last month, Philadephia activists staged a dance around a local supermarket as part of a campaign to pressure grocery chains to stop carrying Sabra Hummus products. The activists urged the supermarket and its customers not to “buy into Israeli apartheid,” and shouted “No Justice, No Chickpeas!”

      It’s really sad. Strauss Group could have either ignored this Philadelphia Marxist boycott or it could have turned it into a way to get more supporters of Israel to buy its products. But, instead, the company chose to betray its own country, Israel, and the fighting men and women who risk their lives to protect it . . . and, again, the company’s very existence in Israel. The Golani Reconnaissance platoon consists of some of the most elite Israeli soldiers, the country’s best and brightest and most patriotic. Every day, they risk their lives under attack from Islamic terrorists. And this is how Strauss treats them. Nauseating.

      So, that’s why I will no longer buy Sabra hummus, Elite chocolates and candy, or Must gum (all products of Strauss–see Strauss Group’s complete product line). You’d think a company that is the second largest food and beverage company in Israel and the sixth largest coffee company in the world would have more guts.

      But you would be wrong. In the case of Strauss and its hummus, chocolates, etc., think with your mind and not your stomach. And stay far away. Contact Strauss Group and let the company know why you will no longer buy their products.

      link to debbieschlussel.com

  5. eGuard says:

    Within two weeks, start to finish.

  6. eshatter says:

    Kudos to DePaul for boycotting Sabra hummus. I’m shocked and disgusted
    to know that it is the best selling hummus in the country. It’s lousy hummus.
    There’s much better stuff out there. The university might even find and
    decide to carry a brand of hummus that’s made locally.

  7. homingpigeon says:

    Interesting that this Hummous should be called Sabra. This is a teachable moment. I have used the word “sabra” to illustrate the levels of understanding of the conflict. It is parallel to and symbolic of many factoids. Try this out on a group of friends. Ask what the word means. Work with me:

    An American with a superficial understanding of the situation will know that “sabra” is a native born Israeli, rather than an immigrant. This sabra is sun bronzed, drains the swamps, irrigates the desert, has one hand on the plow, the other on the Uzi, and in the evening dances the hora on his kibbutz.

    A slightly deeper understanding has it that the said Israeli is named after the sabra prickly pear – tough and harsh on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside.

    Go another level and we discover that this is actually the Arabic word for the fruit. And a little deeper and we discover that the word in the collective plural, “sabr” means “patience” and the fruit is so called because it requires so much patience to get to it.

    OK, one more level – we’re almost there – and we learn that the sabr plant was used for fencing of gardens. Goats and donkeys cannot eat their way through it. But what is most important is that it is indestructible. You can bulldoze the houses and bulldoze the orchards, but bulldoze the sabr plants and they just keep growing back.

    So throughout Palestine one finds clusters of sabr plants to mark the location of former villages.

    The dominant accepted wisdom about the conflict among most Americans is represented by the first and maybe the second layers of understanding of what “sabra” means. Our task is to bring them to the deepest level.