It’s only just the beginning of the academic year for most university students in the United States, but one campus is already marking a victory for the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Palestine solidarity activists at Earlham College, a small Quaker liberal arts college in the Midwest, announced today that the campus dining services were going to stop selling Sabra brand hummus after students raised concerns about the company’s connection to the Israeli occupation.
On the 5th of September, Earlham College’s dining service agreed to have Sabra Hummus removed from the coffee shop after being informed of the involvement in Israeli human rights violations in Palestine by Strauss Group Ltd., of which Sabra Dipping Company, LLC is a subsidiary. The decision comes after a group of concerned students and faculty approached Earlham’s dining services requesting the removal of the product from the college’s facilities.
I talked today to Basil Farraj, a Palestinian from Jerusalem and a junior at studying international relations who is active with BDS Earlham. He said that the Sabra victory came after a group of three students and a faculty member approached the director of dining services at Earlham and informed her of the role of Strauss Group Ltd., Sabra’s parent company, in providing financial support to the Golani and Givati brigades of the Israeli army, which have been involved in war crimes.
“The approach of giving them the leaflets, the handouts, made them realize they were not investing in a good product,” Farraj said, emphasizing, “We didn’t have a specific campaign toward Sabra, it was just an individual initiative and it was lucky it worked out for us. We were lucky that it was that easy; we thought it was going to be a big battle.”
Farraj added: “The students involved in the Sabra campaign did thank the Earlham dining hall and we tried to have a positive interaction with them afterward … we really want to appreciate what they ave done because it was really their decision in the end.”
Sights set on bigger victories
BDS Earlham had not launched a campaign to boycott of Sabra products; Farraj said that this was a personal initiative by individuals involved with BDS Earlham. The group however has their sights set on an even bigger victory — campus divestment from Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar because of the companies’ profiteering from and involvement in the Israeli occupation.
“Over three years we have done a lot of research, and we have done a lot of meetings with faculty, students and the socially responsible committee at our campus … we are very happy about our [Sabra] success, but we haven’t finished, we have a lot more to go,” Farraj explained.
Last year BDS Earlham launched the “Storm the Dorm” initiative, which entails student activists going to “every students’ room … to advertise and raise awareness about BDS and the involvement in these three companies in human rights violations,” Farraj explained.
BDS Earlham has continued with the initiative this year, going to the students in the incoming class, reaching most of the incoming students, Farraj said. The signatures of support that BDS Earlham has gained through this canvassing will be used to build up the campaign and invite students to future meetings and events.
“It’s one of our strategies toward achieving our goal, which is raising student awareness,” Farraj said. “We believe that the student body, student awareness, is key, along with faculty support — this is our key strength in gaining divestment.”