Update (12/9/14 12:13PM): The WSA Dining Committee has released the following statement based on developments over the weekend:
As many people on and off campus are aware, Wesleyan recently switched from stocking Sabra hummus to a local brand, Cedar’s. Though we made this change in the interest of sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint, it unfortunately has been misinterpreted in the media and elsewhere as a political statement in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. In order to clarify our continued political neutrality, and to give students a choice, we will be stocking both Sabra and Cedar’s hummus, starting in January.
Obviously, this is big news that counteracts the political/ethical implications of destocking Sabra hummus. Given that this is the first notice of these changes, we have no statement from those involved in the campaign to remove Sabra, as of yet. We will update this article again with any further developments.
Update (12/9/14 7:08PM): A statement has been released by Yael Horowitz ’17, Students for Justice in Palestine, and “another group of concerned students”:
We are extremely disappointed in the University’s decision to put Sabra Hummus back on the shelves. It is not an ethical response, but is instead motivated by public relations and the opinions of President Michael Roth. Student opinion is against Israeli apartheid and occupation, and we will continue to make this known. This is not the end of the conversation.
If you haven’t noticed (though you probably have), Weshop has started carrying a new brand of hummus. Over the course of a few weeks, Sabra hummus has been phased out and replaced by Cedar’s. Additionally, all other Sabra products have been taken off the shelves in Pi and Usdan Café. This change was implemented under the direction of the Dining Committee, which is led by WSA members and Bon Appetit staff.
The decision to switch hummus brands comes after a long campaign by members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and other students to remove Sabra products from the dining locations on campus, because of Sabra’s involvement in the Israel/Palestine conflict.This campaign was initiated over the course of multiple semesters. “Two years ago, we were researching and educating ourselves on the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions movement, which began in Palestine in 2005,” says JJ Mitchell ’15. The movement seeks to take a stand against financial support for Israel and its actions against Palestine. “Sabra’s parent company, Strauss Group, provides direct monetary aid to certain military brigades, specifically the Golani Brigade, that are known for their particularly violent approaches,” says Mitchell. These Israeli Defense Forces that have received material support from Strauss Group have been pinpointed as violating the human rights of Palestinians.
Other schools have seen similar campaigns, to varying degrees of success, including Princeton University and Earlham College. Last year, students, including members of SJP started taking action to get Sabra destocked at Weshop and Pi. They drafted a letter to the Weshop managers, explaining why it should be removed in order to promote a stance of political neutrality. Mitchell says that at that time, the Weshop staff responded that this “was not an option.”
After that, students adopted other approaches, focusing mainly on an awareness campaign. An informational zine was published. Others were involved in stickering Sabra packages with informational stickers.
But no changes were made. And in the fall, upon the return for the new semester, Sabra was still on the shelves. The students involved in the campaign continued their actions. Requests were made to the WSA. There were pamphlets distributed and a banner dropped.
And then suddenly, with no announcement, Sabra started being replaced with Cedar’s, a different hummus brand.
Isabel Linzer ‘17, member of the WSA Dining Committee, provides a little more insight into the decision. As Linzer explains, “The Dining Committee was approached by a few individuals who were concerned about the stocking of Sabra Hummus. These students pointed out that by stocking Sabra Hummus Bon Appetit and Wesleyan were complicit in crimes against humanity according to the UN, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. While this point was noted, it was not the deciding factor in our decision to switch to Cedar’s Hummus. Cedar’s is a local, all natural, family-owned brand. The concerned students suggested Cedar’s as an alternative product, which the Dining Committee felt was better aligned with both the Dining Committee and Bon Appetit’s mission to be ‘a pioneer in environmentally-sound sourcing policies.’”
Mitchell notes that those involved in the campaign had proposed Cedar’s Hummus as an alternative from the start of their actions. The Dining Committee clearly listened to this suggestion in making their decision.
All the same, Linzer’s words articulate a disconnect between the decision and the ethical and political arguments made by students involved in the campaign. As she states, “the individuals that presented Cedar’s as a better alternative came to us as concerned community members and did not present themselves as being affiliated with any student groups” and stressed the sustainability goals of Bon Appetit and the Dining Committee in influencing the decision.
Whatever the reasons were, the decision is making waves in the media, though not necessarily in students’ eating habits. Those involved in the campaign have claimed it as a major victory for the BDS movement. Besides conversations about the campaign’s influence on the decision, there has been little resistance to the change in brands amongst students. As anyone who has tried Cedar’s can attest, it’s a comparable, if not tastier hummus than Sabra—though even Mitchell advises against the Lemon Zest flavor. [Editor’s note: It’s true, Lemon Zest is gross; but the garlic hummus is terrific.]