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.
DePaul’s divestment from Strauss Group-owned Sabra products comes less than a month after a similar attempt at divestment hit the streets of Philadelphia. Over two dozen activists gathered at a supermarket near the University of Pennsylvania to protest the sale of Sabra hummus. A video of the action was released to the public via YouTube where it quickly grew in popularity and eventually prompted Strauss Group to remove all references supporting the Israeli military from its English-translated website. However, the Hebrew version of the website still maintains the corporation’s public support of IDF activity.
Major BDS campaigns generally take years of concentrated grassroots efforts before any significant progress is made but that did not deter the small group of DePaul students from voicing their concern and offering alternative solutions that fell in line with the university’s code of ethics. The efforts put into this divestment campaign, both at DePaul and in Philadelphia, serve as a model for future college BDS movements. Any institution of higher learning that promotes morality, justice, and respect must make sure to abide by its principles. If it doesn’t, it is up to the students to make sure things change for the better.
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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!