A group of protesters gathered outside the Sabra Hummus House pop-up shop on Wisconsin Avenue NW Monday evening to protest the company owners’ support of the Golani brigade of the Israeli army, in a demonstration organized by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
In the intermittent rain, protesters gathered in front of the store around 6:30 p.m. carrying a large Palestinian flag and signs denouncing the store for supporting human rights violations in Palestine.
“Sabra supports the Gaza siege: let Gaza live … let Gaza breathe,” protestors chanted.
According to its website, Sabra is owned by PepsiCo, based in the U.S., and by the Strauss Group, an Israeli food company that has provided for the Golani Brigade, a fraction of Israel’s military. In addition to the Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip, the protesters also said that they were protesting the brigade’s “racist” T-shirts, one depicting a pregnant Muslim woman in cross hairs that read “1 shot, 2 kills,” according to the protest’s event description.
A spokesperson for the company told The New York Times in 2010 that Sabra had never contributed “hummus or anything else” to the Israeli military. Sabra faced similar pushback in 2010, when Palestinian students at Princeton and DePaul Universities protested the sale of Sabra hummus on their campuses.
“The company has no political positions or affiliations,” Sabra wrote in a comment.
In response to the protest, one customer showed his support for Israel by wearing an Israeli flag like a cape as he walked past the protesters on his way inside of the store. Ari Goldstein (COL ’18), a board member of the Georgetown Israel Alliance, said that the organization deliberately did not take any action to respond to the protest.
“GIA made a conscious decision not to stage a counter-protest on Tuesday because we are a proactive, not reactive, organization,” Goldstein said.
However, Goldstein disagreed with the aims of the protest and characterized it as divisive.
“I think the protest was short-sighted. It framed a complex conflict in black-and-white terms in which only Israel is at fault, which is neither a fair nor constructive assessment,” Goldstein said. “Not to mention the fact that boycotting a business just because it’s Israeli gets us nowhere closer to peace, mutual understanding or a two-state solution — it merely divides and antagonizes.”
Sarah Mink, an employee of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, said that the demonstration was protesting against actions of the Israeli army and did not denounce the entire country or population.
“This isn’t anti-Israel, anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish. That’s a really common misconception that people have,” Mink said. “As a Jew, I’m really uncomfortable with Israel’s actions against human rights violations in Palestinian territories.”
GIA board member Josh Goldberg (COL ’17) also was uncomfortable with the protest, asking for students to support peaceful solutions instead.
“Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East and therefore is an important strategic ally to the United States. Students should be aware of the current situation in the Middle East and do what they can to support a peaceful resolution,” Goldberg said.
Though Mink acknowledged the importance of peace talks, she noted that such solutions had failed in the past, requiring actions such as the protest.
“We’re of the mindset that all of the peace talks and negotiations don’t really work in diplomacy. Although we really believe in it, it is not necessarily what is going to bring about peace and end human rights violations,” Mink said.
Georgetown Students for Justice in Palestine could not be reached for comment by press time.
The Sabra Hummus House will be open through Oct. 26.