I saw Sabra hummus for sale at my high school cafeteria and decided to act

12 January 2012

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Boycott Sabra hummus flyers at DePaul University. 

(Shirien Damra / The Electronic Intifada)
While walking through the salad bar in my school’s cafeteria a couple months ago, I noticed Sabra hummus for sale. It may look harmless on the surface; however, that could not be farther from the truth.

Sabra hummus has become the target of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement because its mother company, the Strauss group, materially and financially supports the Israeli military.

When I saw Sabra on my school cafeteria shelves, I felt a lot of pressure to do something to get the product off my school’s shelves or at least convince my school to offer an alternative brand.

Not knowing where to start, I approached the lunch lady who works in the salad bar and explained to her the link between Sabra and Israel’s human rights violations. She told me she had already heard that Sabra supports the Israeli army human rights violations as a result of the Students for Justice in Palestine’s campaign at DePaul University in Chicago. She added that Sabra hummus was on backorder, meaning that she could not receive any more for the time being anyway, and that she would simply not order any more of the product. I was shocked at how easy ridding our cafeteria of Sabra hummus was.

I was mistaken. When I went back to school the next day, the cafeteria worker told me to provide her with proof of Sabra’s links to the Israeli military for her boss to see. In a way, I was relieved and looked at it as an opportunity to talk about and bring up Palestine to my classmates. As soon as I got home, I pushed my homework aside and started working on two hefty portfolios with all the information necessary — one for the cafeteria staff and one for just in case.

I tried to stay positive, but I could not help but think about the possibility that my school may not listen to me, a 15-year-old. It certainly did not help that I had relatives who repeated over and over that I might as well give up and not try because, according to their expertise, nobody ever listens to Palestinian activists. That attitude is not going to free Palestine, I snapped back at them, and continued printing out sheets of paper.

“This is for Palestine”

I dropped the portfolio off in the cafeteria workers’ office and walked away. Shortly after, I was called down to the principal’s office, which was expected, but it was still the most nerve-wracking walk I have ever taken in my life — what was around three minutes felt like three hours.

The principal was sitting in his chair, flipping through the portfolio that I dropped off in the cafeteria office. The moment I sat down, all of my worries and doubts washed away. “This is for Palestine, I am not going to blow it,” I thought to myself. I calmly explained to him that Sabra’s mother company, the Strauss group, unashamedly brags about its links to the Israeli military’s Golani and Givati brigades, which have committed appalling human rights violations.

My school’s principal was shocked that a brand so widely sold is linked to atrocious human rights violations and asked me what my solution was, and what move our school should take. I told him about how DePaul University responded to SJP’s campaign by offering an alternative brand to Sabra. After I left the office, he called me down about 15 minutes later and informed me that the decision to offer an alternative brand had been made.

A huge smile broke across my face and I felt empowered. I went down to the social science hallway and told the teachers the result they had been waiting for; they were ecstatic. My classmates, for the most part, gave me a really encouraging response. As soon as I began explaining to one classmate what happened, another classmate would come and ask me to explain it again. One of my teachers asked for an extra portfolio to give to his wife, who is a teacher at another school. His wife ended up giving the portfolio to her supervisor, who ended up giving it to her religious institution to pass around. God knows where it is now.

Overall, this experience taught me that if you are truly passionate about something, anything is possible.

Nadine Darwish is a student at Lincoln-Way High School in the Chicago suburbs.