The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

University of Manchester removes Sabra Hummus

BDS campaigners petitioned to remove the brand, slamming the university's "complicity in human rights violations"

The New Arab, 8 February, 2018

UoM’s BDS campaign described the stocking of Sabra Hummus in shops on campus as making the “university complicit in human rights violations through the funding of the ‘elite’ branch of the Israeli army”.

The ‘elite’ branch references the Golani Brigade, “who are known to commit a myriad of war crimes in Palestine”, added the statement.

Campaigners hoping to highlight the violations committed by the Israeli military force released a petition challenging the stocking of Sabra products and sent a statement to the manager of catering at the university.

Sabra, a US-based company, is owned jointly by PepsiCo and Strauss Group.

Strauss, an Israeli multinational corporation, invests and financially supports the Golani Brigade, part of Israel’s military force, according to their website.

Following the recall campaign, the statement in English was removed from the website, however it remains in Hebrew.

Strauss aids the Golani Brigade “with an ongoing variety of food products for their training or missions, and provide personal care packages for each soldier that completes the path”.

The website added that they provide the unit with funding for “welfare, cultural and educational activities, such as pocket money for underprivileged soldiers, sports and recreational equipment, care packages and books and games for the soldiers’ club”.

According to the statement compiled by the campaign, the Brigade “played key roles in the Israeli army’s assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008-9 during ‘Operation Cast Lead’”. The 22-day military offensive killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and devastated the coastal enclave.

Campaigners argued that a purchase is an endorsement of the company’s politics, and stressed the University of Manchester should not financially support human rights violators like the Golani Brigade.

“This is a great victory for the whole movement of BDS, however the university still holds institutional and investment links to Israel’s war crimes including shares in companies which profit from and sustain Israel’s apartheid regime.”

In response to the petition signed by students and the statement submitted, the assistant catering manager responded by saying that Sabra Hummus will be removed indefinitely from the shop, and will instead be replaced by Greek-owned company Delphi.

“This is a great victory for the whole movement of BDS, however the university still holds institutional and investment links to Israel’s war crimes including shares in companies which profit from and sustain Israel’s apartheid regime, such as Caterpillar, whose specially-modified armed bulldozers are used to demolish homes, schools, olive groves and communities in Palestine,” student Emilia Micunovic, told The New Arab.

“This goes completely against the university’s own socially responsible investment policy.”

She added: “As a first-year student, I was shocked to find out that my university was in fact not investing in the socially responsible companies that it claims to and instead hold millions of pounds worth of shares in companies which sustain Israel’s apartheid regime.”

Israel sees the boycott movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism – a claim activists deny, saying they want only to see an end to Israel’s occupation.

Last year Israel’s parliament passed a law barring entry into the country for those supporting a boycott of Israel. Rights groups criticised the law as “thought control” and noted that Israel also controls who enters the Palestinian, territories apart from one border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Jonathan Whyatt, a second-year student at the University of Manchester, and part of the BDS campaign, said: “The University of Manchester has a partnership with Technion, a leader in research and development for the Israeli army, who is partnered with Elbit systems, who manufacture weapons tested and used on innocent civilians in Palestine.

“We must continue to demand full divestment from Israel’s war crimes and students at my university are increasingly becoming aware of the unethical investments of the university.”

In a push to end the university’s financial ties with socially unethical companies, BDS campaigners have joined forces with other groups, including Campaign against the Arms Trade and People and the Planet.

This is not the first time campaigners have called for a boycott of Sabra Hummus.

Palestinian-American DJ Khaled found himself at the centre of controversy when he performed at a Super Bowl event in the Bay Area sponsored by the product – “the official dip of Super Bowl 50”. Critics slammed the artist saying he “supports the oppression of his own people,” going as far as releasing a diss track to the tune of the artist’s best-known song, ‘I’m on one’.