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Today marks another win for the global boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement against corporations that profit from severe human rights violations. Chicago’s very own DePaul University just announced that their dining services will be discontinuing the sale of hummus manufactured by Sabra, an Israeli brand known for its vocal and material support of Israeli Defense Forces. The administration has temporarily suspended the sale of Sabra products and will likely move towards permanently banning the brand from campus.
A little over two weeks ago, members of DePaul’s Students for Justice in Palestine expressed concern over the sale of Sabra products after discovering that Chartwells, which provides dining services to the university, had introduced the Israeli-brand hummus to food and dining facilities throughout campus. Acting on their concern, the students compiled research and revealed that the Strauss Group, co-owner of Sabra, has direct monetary ties with elite Israeli military forces currently and historically involved in the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. 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.