Two weeks ago, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at DePaul University called on campus administrators to suspend the sale of Sabra hummus products after revealing the company’s involvement in the financial and material support of the Israeli military. The University immediately signed on, abiding by its Vincentian values and removing the product from campus food and dining facilities. Days later, however, the administration was pressured into reinstating the Sabra products pending review by the university’s Fair Business Practices Committee.
The opposition quickly regarded this as a substantial defeat to the campaign designed to promote divestment from companies complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. SJP has since responded with a public statement denouncing the reinstatement of Sabra hummus while also calling on DePaul’s administration to permanently extend the suspension of Sabra sales.
In the group’s response (posted at the end of this article and here), the group reveals the capacity to which Sabra’s co-owner, the Strauss Group, supports the policies and practices of the Israeli military. Highlighted in the statement is a small selection of human rights abuses exhibited by two particular military brigades benefiting from Strauss’ vocal and material support.
The University has yet to formally respond. Most likely, however, the request to deshelve Sabra products will be reviewed by the Fair Business Practices Committee in the weeks to come. SJP and its community supporters urge the Committee to adhere to the University’s core values of justice and human dignity by ceasing all financial ties with Sabra.
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Public Statement on the Return of Sabra Products to DePaul University
Students for Justice in Palestine at DePaul University
DePaul University officials have overturned a decision to discontinue the sale of Sabra hummus products after students brought attention to Sabra’s connections to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories. On November 11, 2010, DePaul University students from the group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) wrote to the University administration objecting to the sale of Sabra hummus in campus dining facilities. SJP’s concerns are based on the activities of Sabra’s parent company, the Strauss Group, an Israel-based corporation which provides vocal and material support to Israeli military practices that stand in direct contravention to international and human rights law. We suggest that DePaul adhere to more ethical business practices by indefinitely suspending Sabra sales and withdrawing financial support from a company openly promoting the endangerment of Palestinian lives.
One week after DePaul students voiced their concerns about Sabra and the Strauss Group, the University’s dining services temporarily discontinued the sale of Sabra hummus. However, DePaul administrators reversed this action several days later, stating that the University “asked its food services vendor to reinstate the sale of Sabra hummus on its Chicago campuses.” Administrators indicated that the removal of Sabra from campus dining facilities was premature and first needed to be reviewed by the Fair Business Practices Committee.
SJP DePaul recognizes that a review by the Committee is an important step in ensuring that business relationships and practices on campus are in accordance with our University’s mission and values. However, we do not find any language in the University’s policies and procedures that conflicts with a temporary suspension of a vendor pending review by the Committee. We find that the temporary discontinuation of Sabra is consistent with a legitimate interpretation of existing University policy and we do not agree that the issue was mishandled. In that vein, we ask the University to resume its suspension of Sabra hummus products pending a final decision from the Fair Business Practices Committee. We also ask the Committee to uphold the suspension based on the following information.
The Strauss Group maintains a direct material relationship with the Israeli military, particularly providing two elite Israeli brigades with financial support and care packages . Although the Israeli military itself has a long history of violating international law, the Golani and Givati Brigades are notorious for their severe human rights abuses against Palestinian civilians . The brigades have recently attracted attention for their actions in Gaza during “Operation Cast Lead.” In one instance, members of the Golani brigade endangered Palestinian children by reportedly forcing them to serve as human shields . In another instance, a Givati brigade soldier shot and killed a Palestinian mother and daughter both carrying white flags . In yet another instance, a Givati brigade commander authorized the use of white phosphorus chemical weapons to attack a UN compound in Gaza that sheltered approximately 700 displaced civilians . The Strauss Group’s support for the Golani and Givati brigades is an endorsement of egregious violations against Palestinian human rights.
As DePaul students, we are deeply concerned with DePaul University’s support for any company that actively supports Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land. In light of the Strauss Group’s ongoing support of the Golani and Givati brigades, which both act against international human rights standards, the University’s affiliation with the Strauss Group is inconsistent with DePaul’s Vincentian values. Continued distribution of Sabra hummus products aligns DePaul University with the perpetuation of egregious harms and shocking injustices. Therefore, we call on DePaul to permanently refrain from buying, stocking, and using Sabra hummus products.
SJP is a group of students, faculty, staff and community members from diverse ethnic, religious, national, and political backgrounds, including Palestinian and Israeli Jewish members. Through non-violent and academic-based activism, SJP DePaul aims to educate the campus community about Israel’s grave violations against human rights as a path toward equality, social justice, and peace.
 The Strauss Group. “Corporate Responsibility,” screenshot by Adalah-NY, October 9, 2010, http://adalahny.org/images/stories/strauss-soldiers.png.
 Talmor, Ronny. “The Use of Firearms by the Security Forces in the Occupied Territories.” Comprehensive Report by B’Tselem, July 1990, pp. 30-37, http://www.btselem.org/Download/199007_Use_of_Firearms_Eng.doc.
 “Israel army studies ‘abuse video’.” BBC News, November 7, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7715861.stm.
 Harel, Amos. “IDF’s Golani Brigade: Always first on the scene at the front line.” Haaretz Daily Newspaper, June 1, 2009, http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/the-idf-s-golani-brigade-always-first-on-the-scene-at-the-front-line-1.267546.
 “Israel: Soldiers’ Punishment for Using Boy as ‘Human Shield’ Inadequate.” Human Rights Watch, November 29, 2010, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/11/26/israel-soldiers-punishment-using-boy-human-shield-inadequate.
 Greenberg, Hanan. “Soldier may be charged with manslaughter.” Ynet News, June 16, 2010, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3905952,00.html.
 “Amnesty International’s assessment of Israeli and Palestinian investigations into Gaza conflict.” Amnesty International, September 27, 2010, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE15/022/2010/en/f47157be-801d-48a5-b671-f67153a7c1d6/mde150222010en.pdf.