New Sabra hummus ad uses images of Arabs, Africans to cover up Israel army connection

The Strauss Group, the company that openly supports the Israeli army and makes Sabra brand hummus, is trying a new advertising strategy to hide its Israeli connections and combat a growing boycott movement.

It is to depict Arabs and Muslims in its ads as a form of cover. Should we call this “Arabwashing?”

An EI reader wrote to us this week after seeing the ad on a children’s cable channel in the US:

On Nick Jr. this morning they had a commercial with hijabi women [Muslim women wearing a head covering] in it and I was excited to see that! They showed some other multicultural people (I remember a rastafarian looking group) and back to the Muslims weighing chickpeas etc. Everyone gathers at a huge table in a beautiful field and they reveal the commercial is for Sabra hummus.

The 30-second ad is called “Sabra World Table” and can be found on YouTube.

Stock characters at the service of consumer desires

The ad begins with a young, blonde woman ringing a bell outside a beautiful suburban home – this presumably is the person with whom the ad viewer is supposed to identify.

As she rings the bell, an Arab woman in a far-away market place hears it and is summoned to action, rather like a genie hearing the call of its master. The marketplace looks strikingly like the markets of Hebron or the Old City of Jerusalem, which Israel has invaded, settled and done its best to place off limits to indigenous Palestinian inhabitants, merchants and customers.

Then another man, who looks like a character from Fiddler on the Roof hears the bell in what appears to be a caricature of an east European shtetl – except that he lifts up a basket of olives.

Other “colorful” ethnic characters – including Africans and Asians – leap into action at the sound of the white woman’s bell and bring “the fresh flavors of the world” to her suburban backyard.

The boycott is biting Sabra hummus

There’s a number of messages from this ad:

The ad also indicates that the growing movement to boycott Sabra over its support for the Israeli army is having an impact – hence this sort of desperate messaging.

Students all over the US have raised awareness about Sabra’s support for the Israeli army. In May last year, for example, students at Chicago’s DePaul University voted by a huge margin to ban Sabra hummus.

Most recently, Illinois high school student Nadine Darwish wrote about her successful effort to have her school offer an ethical alternative to Sabra-brand hummus.

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They forgot to disable the comments on the youtube page, I'm sure your readers can fill it constructively :)

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.