Chicago, IL - On May 23, DePaul University’s Fair Business Practices Committee (FBPC) made a recommendation to the president on whether or not to replace Sabra hummus with an alternative brand in campus dining halls. Throughout the past six months, the FBPC, consisting of faculty, staff and student representatives, has met both internally and with students on both sides of the controversial hummus debate.
The FBPC concluded that “there do not appear to be sufficient grounds for a boycott of Sabra hummus, primarily because the Committee did not find evidence that the Strauss Group provides direct military support for units within the Israeli Defense Forces." In response, the president said that the “product will remain on our shelves.”
This decision was made despite students’ concerns about complicity with human rights abuses, which was reflected in last week’s student elections, where a large majority (77%) of students who participated voted to remove Sabra from DePaul campus shelves. This followed an awareness raising campaign by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which produced extensive documentation and brought to light the fact that the brand’s parent company, the Strauss Group, supports two units of the Israeli military that were found by the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to be guilty of human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Some of the egregious violations noted by human rights groups: Givati brigade soldiers endangered Palestinian children by forcing them to serve as human shields; members of the Golani brigade opened fire on a civilian home, killing three young girls; a Givati brigade soldier shot and killed a Palestinian mother and daughter as they were carrying white flags during Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip from December 2008 to January 2009.
DePaul students involved in the movement to boycott Sabra Hummus are extremely disappointed with the FBPC decision, which they believe has not taken their research into consideration. SJP notes that during its meeting with the FBPC, committee members indicated that they prepared a draft of a final recommendation without taking into consideration the evidence that SJP sent to the FBPC to aid in its decision‐making process.
In response to the FBPC’s decision, DePaul history student Sam Dreessen stated: "We are disappointed that even though the FPBC recognized that army units supported by Sabra hummus' parent company commit human rights violations, they have decided not to do the right thing."
The FBPC has stated that the Strauss Group’s support for the brigades is not material because it does not specifically send weapons. However, the Strauss group states publicly that it provides money and supplies to the two brigades that have been found by international human rights groups to have committed human rights violations against civilians.
In recent weeks, there has been a groundswell of awareness and support among DePaul University students for replacing Sabra Hummus with an ethically conscious brand that is not complicit in Israel’s military occupation, which is deemed illegal by the international community. Students will continue to campaign for the removal of Sabra and strive for more socially responsible business relationships at DePaul University.