Identity, Israel, Mishegas


By now you all have heard of the Princeton referendum being offered by a group of concerned students at the Ivy League campus in New Jersey. Sabra Hummus has been declared an enemy of Palestine and should be banned from campus there should be other options for students to purchase when they desire a creamy Middle Eastern dip.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for meaningless political action in college; after all I was an elected member of the student senate back in college, so I know all about that. But when it comes to an elite institution of higher learning such as Princeton, I kind of expect more than a call to action that involves the inclusion other chickpea spreads.
At first the Princeton Committee on Palestine wanted to ban the evil oppressive Sabra Hummus (that is co-owned by the allegedly pro-Arab anti-Israel Pepsi Co) because the company supports Israeli society institutions including but not limited to the Israeli Defense Forces. I get it: Sabra, an Israeli sounding company, makes for a great target. But going after the only hummus that tastes anything like hummus isn’t going to make you any friends in the co-existence department.
This “boycott” is so stupid it hurts my head. The watered down referendum is proof that the PCP has no clue what they are doing and the over blown reaction to this across the country to this call to action continues to baffle me. There are real problems with how Israel conducts itself in Palestinian areas and there are issues to discuss. However, I have to believe that boycotting hummus isn’t really going to do anything at all to address those issues. You want to make a statement, go after the investments, call for an end to student travel; fight the real fight not the garlicy deliciousness of Sabra Hummus that now comes in like a million different flavors.
This point is only reinforced by PCP president Yoel Bitran in an interview he gives Inside Higher Ed. The article notes that the referendum “is neutral because it only calls for more options and not the elimination of any.” Bitran then says, “We think it’s important to allow students to have choice, and if they want to eat hummus, not have to buy a product that’s so morally problematic.” While I agree, plastic is bad for the environment and industrial farming isn’t great for the earth, the product itself isn’t the issue Yoel.
In a guest commentary on the Daily Princetonian, Bitran states the following:

“[T]he money we pay for a package of Sabra hummus could be going directly into the pockets of members of an illegal occupation force known for its brutality against innocent Palestinians.”

Now we know that isn’t true. This money first needs to be taxed by the big devil, the United States, before it can go to the little devil, Israel…duh. Aren’t they teaching you anything at Princeton?
This is the core of the problem: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t going to be won or lost (for either side) on college campuses. Sure, there are minds to be influenced and people in the magic apathetic 1/3 to win over, but a hummus boycott isn’t going to affect the amount of cash flowing into the IDF. If anything it will increase donations from wealthy Jewish alumni.
What we see here is the continuation of a pandemic of over simplification of one of the world’s most complex conflicts, one that spans religious, cultural, economic and generational gaps. It is being boiled down into a weak pseudo-boycott of a Mediterranean chickpea product that is owned by two multinational food and beverage conglomerates.
You want to fight, then fight. Take on the school’s policies about Israeli professors or students or something besides hummus. You want to provide more options to students, then you need to work with your “enemy” and find common ground. This referendum will only prove that PCP doesn’t have the pull to ban a condiment on an American college campus, let alone make a meaningful contribution to the protection of human rights in Palestine.
But chanting on the quad will forever make a difference in the lives of those you claim to represent.

23 thoughts on “NO JUSTICE, NO CHICKPEAS!

  1. I think that Sabra hummus should be banned because it contains MSG, this is the most insulting thing Sabra has done to us chick pea enthusiasts. They don’t list MSG as an ingredient on the packaging(hiding it within the ‘spices’).This to me is far more insidious then any possible support of Palestinians.

  2. So, I realize that this may not be an option for dorm-dwelling college students, but for everyone else: make your own freaking hummus! It’s easy, cheap, relatively chemical-free, and doesn’t support anti-democratic institutions, which (except for the quickness) is quite a lot more than I can say for the store-bought stuff. And Sabra isn’t THAT great. Rarely is something that comes in a plastic container preferable (in terms of cost OR taste) to something that you make at home.

  3. This group is known as PCP? Was that what they were taking when they came up with this mishigas?
    Also….the group’s president is named Yoel? Oy…..why, oh why, does the anti-Israel leader on every campus HAVE to be a Jew……

  4. As far as store bought hummus goes, nothing even comes close to Sabra quality. Could use more olive oil… Is PCP working for Sabra? We all know the result of these boycott attempts, at least in the US – the product in question doubles in sales for a week or two. PCP, by their actions, is actually supporting more funding for IDF soldiers.

  5. Is there any actual evidence about whether or not Sabra money goes to the IDF, or is it simply an assumption because the company is owned by Israelis?
    I visited their factory in Queens once. Everyone just straight up shouting at each other in Hebrew. It was hilarious.

  6. Making hummus is not that hard, perhaps they could have a big hummus making party, like Food Not Bombs or something. Sabra adds a lot of extra things you don’t really need in the hummus. All you need is:
    Fresh Parsley (or Cilantro if that’s more available)
    Lemon Juice
    Olive Oil
    Then just get a food processor or a potato masher and mix it into a paste. Serve with pita bread or chips and your choice of political propaganda.

  7. Here in Israel, it’s not cost effective to make hummus at home. A small sabra container in the U.S. (around 300g if I remember correctly) costs around $3 (at least it used to cost that). For about that same amount in shekels, I buy a 1kg tub. For those who are metrically challenged, that’s more than three times the hummus for the same price.

  8. We’re missing the who mishagas re: Sabra Humus ’cause in California our Sabra Humus is made in Ohio. Sheesh

  9. @Adam: Really? How expensive are beans in Israel? Here, it’s way cheap (possibly the cheapest thing one can buy) to go out and get a bunch of dried beans – literally pennies to the pound.

  10. I am guessing the students who organized this boycott have already acquired their fashionable Palestinian kaffiyehs to wear while they eat other, sub-standard hummus. They looks extra stylish if you tie them around your neck like a scarf.

  11. I used to make my own humus, but since the moronic call for a boycott inspired me to consistently buy Sabra — it really is the best humus I’ve ever had stateside.

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