Many Georgetown students only know Sabra as their favorite variety of chickpea spread for sale at Vital Vittles. The popular hummus brand, however, has been the target of boycotts at some peer universities.
The undergraduate student government at Princeton University may vote as soon as Nov. 29 on a referendum requesting that Princeton Dining Services offer a brand of hummus other than Sabra, according to The Daily Princetonian.
The request comes following allegations that Sabra hummus has been sent in care packages to Israeli military units allegedly perpetrating human rights violations in the West Bank.
The issue has grabbed the attention of some Georgetown student groups keeping an eye on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I find the company’s extensive support of Israeli occupation forces problematic, and I think anyone who buys Sabra should consider the implications of such a purchase,” said Jackson Perry (COL ’12), treasurer for Students for Justice in Palestine.
While SJP and other schools have taken a tougher stance, The Corp, which carries the hummus brand Sabra, has no immediate plans to discontinue sales of the product.
“As a nonprofit, The Corp remains apolitical at all times,” said Brad Glasser (COL ’11), CEO of The Corp. “That said, The Corp is interested to see how Sabra responds to the allegations leveled against them.”
Glasser said Corp leadership would wait for developments before any talks of an end to Sabra sales at Corp grocery services can occur.
At Princeton University, members of the school’s Committee on Palestine take aim at the Strauss Group, Sabra’s co-owner, for alleged support of the Israeli Golani Brigade of the Israeli Defense Forces, which has been accused of human rights violations.
Other universities have also seen the Middle East tensions play out via the snack. DePaul University has removed the dip from its dining services menu, and a recent protest of the product was staged at a grocery near the University of Pennsylvania.
The Georgetown Israel Alliance currently has no official stance on boycotts of Sabra hummus, according to GIA Vice President for Political Affairs Sam Blank (COL ’12).
“However, we believe that any campaign to boycott or divest from companies doing business in either Israel or the Palestinian territories is harmful to the cause of peace and not conducive to productive dialogue,” Blank said. “Campaigns such as the one at Princeton aim to delegitimize and harm the state of Israel and her citizens.”
Blank added that he did not believe the protests would be effective.
“We believe there are far more productive ways to assist the Israelis and Palestinians, and help to achieve a permanent and lasting peace,” he said. “If there are allegations of abuses, these Princeton students should be supporting the various Israeli and Palestinian non-government organizations that help to monitor and prevent such incidents.”
Glasser was clear that these concerns are not to be taken lightly by The Corp.
“Like many of our fellow Hoyas, The Corp values social responsibility in our vendor and distributor partners,” he said. “Should we find any proof that Sabra – or any other producer or distributor for that matter – has failed to uphold these standards, we will promptly and unapologetically discontinue our support of that company.”
Sabra spokeswoman Ilya Welfeld, said these allegations cannot be linked directly to Sabra.
“Sabra products are not sent outside of North America,” Welfeld said. “The company has no political positions or affiliations,” she added.
Yet she acknowledged, “Sabra Dipping Company is owned by two independent global food companies – PepsiCo, based in the United States, and Strauss Group, which is headquartered in Israel. Each company is a separate entity and an independent company.”
For Perry of Students for Justice in Palestine, explanations like Sabra’s do not sit well.
“The [Strauss Group’s alleged] support of the Golani Brigade lends legitimacy to an illegal occupation of non-Israeli land,” Perry said.