A popular brand of hummus is no longer on sale at Wesleyan University after a successful protest campaign by students upset over the brand’s indirect ties to the Israeli army.
Sabra Dipping Co., which holds about two-thirds of the burgeoning U.S. hummus market, had its products disappear from the shelves of Wesleyan’s dining halls and food stores last week, replaced by the competing Cedar brand. Although U.S.-based, Sabra is a frequent punching bag for critics of Israel because 50 percent of it is owned by the Israeli food manufacturer Strauss (the other half is owned by PepsiCo.). Strauss, in turn, has been condemned for the support it has given to the Golani Brigade, a military unit in the Israeli Defense Forces that Palestinian activists accuse of war crimes.
The movement as Wesleyan was spearheaded by the school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), who plastered stickers on Sabra products urging students “Don’t buy into Israeli human rights abuses.” While campus officials didn’t want to take a political position by removing the brand, SJP organizer Tedra James told the site Electronic Intifada they were able to convince them that “not selling Sabra products was the neutral position.”
The attack on Sabra hummus is just one battle in the wider war over the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Advocates of the movement seek to economically isolate Israel and thereby compel it to change its policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Critics, however, argue that BDS hurts Palestinians as well as Israelis, and constitutes a form of collective punishment that does nothing to encourage peace in the region.
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Wesleyan isn’t the first school to see students push for Sabra to be dumped, as similar campaigns have been attempted at Princeton University, DePaul University, and elsewhere. However, if the removal sticks, the Wesleyan food boycott will be the most successful one thus far.
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