The University of Pittsburgh has complied with a request by Students for Justice in Palestine to offer an alternative to Sabra brand hummus at its campus dining facilities. The SJP’s appeal for another choice in hummus was made in furtherance of the student group’s commitment to the boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
While Sabra will still be available to students who prefer it, hummus from Asmar — a family-run business that produces Lebanese food — will provide students with a second option.
The boycott against Sabra hummus is based on allegations that the Strauss Group, an Israeli company that co-owns Sabra along with PepsiCo, supports the Israel Defense Forces.
“We are mobilizing for justice for the Palestinian people, and the Israel Defense Forces conduct daily atrocities toward the Palestinian people in the West Bank and in Gaza alike,” said Hadeel Salameh, president of the Pitt chapter of SJP, in an interview. “We firmly believe that peace is not possible without justice for both sides.”
Strauss is “a group that helps fund the occupation in Palestine,” she charged, “and we have an obligation to speak out against it.”
The SJP currently has no plans to boycott other PepsiCo products, according to Salameh.
Students from several other North American universities have advocated for boycotts of Sabra hummus, including Princeton, American University and the University of Ottawa.
While Pitt students now have the choice between two brands of hummus, SJP hopes to have the Sabra brand completely eliminated from the offerings at Pitt.
“Our next step is to remove Sabra from the shelves,” Salameh said. “We will further collaborate with the dining services to convince them. If we can’t convince them, we will have to think of alternative methods. But right now, we are trying to convince them and work with them.”
The addition of Asmar hummus to the shelves was simply a response to students’ culinary requests, and was not politically motivated, according to Ken Service, vice chancellor for communications at the University of Pittsburgh.
“Our food service meets regularly with students to talk about their likes and dislikes,” Service said. “We try to address students’ concerns. The students came and said they didn’t like the Sabra brand of hummus, so we gave them another brand to choose from.”
The university has assured representatives of the Hillel Jewish University Center that Sabra hummus will continue to be offered as an option for students, according to Dan Marcus, executive director and CEO of Hillel JUC.
“We appreciate the partnership and support of the university and Sodexo (Pitt’s dining service) that Sabra hummus will remain on the shelf,” Marcus said. “I’ve been given complete assurance by a senior university official that this is a nonissue and that the removal of Sabra hummus is not even on the table.”
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.