Shoppers and employees at the Fresh Grocer’s flagship store at 40th and Walnut Street in Philadelphia were surprised last month by a choreographed flash dance performed in the store by activists calling for a boycott of products that provide moral and financial support for Israeli human rights violations. Approximately twenty neighborhood activists affiliated with the Philly BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) group, dressed in black and wearing sequined red accessories, danced in unison and sang an adaptation of a popular song by US pop star Lady Gaga, demanding that the store stop selling — and its customers stop buying — Sabra and Tribe hummus products.
Sabra and Tribe products directly subsidize Israeli abuses of Palestinians’ human rights through their support of the Israeli military and infrastructure of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
According to Adalah-NY, the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, Sabra products are 50 percent owned by Israeli company the Strauss Group and 50 percent by Pepsico. On the Strauss Group’s website, the company declares its support for the Israeli military: “We have adopted the Golani reconnaissance platoon [in the Israeli army] for over thirty years and provide them with an ongoing variety of food products for their training or missions, and provide personal care packages for each soldier that completes the path. We have also adopted the Southern Shualei Shimshon troops from the Givati platoon with the goal of improving their service conditions and being there at the front to spoil them with our best products” (Adalah-NY factsheet).
Adalah-NY also states that the Massachusetts-based Tribe Hummus, a competitor of Sabra, was acquired by the Israel-based Osem Group for $57 million in 2008.
The store’s security staff attempted to intervene and stop the disruption, but the flash dancers were able to finish performing their act to Fresh Grocer shoppers that included lyrics such as “Don’t buy into Israeli apartheid!” As customers watched and applauded, the dancers left the store chanting “No justice, no chickpeas!” in a humorous play on the popular “No justice, no peace!” chant. They then repeated their performance on the sidewalk, directly in front of the store.
“As a customer and as a Jew, I’m hoping that Fresh Grocer will pay attention to the concerns of its community and stop carrying Sabra and Tribe hummus,” said Hannah Schwarzschild, a member of Philly BDS. “Not only would it be a significant step in support of justice and peace in Palestine and Israel, but it would also help educate our own community about the power of our consumer choices,” she said.
Organizers said they had previously requested meetings with Fresh Grocer management to push stores to stop carrying Sabra and Tribe products, but their requests had been ignored. Fresh Grocer, based in Drexel Hill, has eight supermarkets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware. Philly BDS activists said they are asking Fresh Grocer to stop stocking Sabra and Tribe because of Fresh Grocer’s stated commitment to meeting the needs of the communities in which their stores are located.
Schwarzschild added, “We don’t think the communities where Fresh Grocer is doing business — West Philadelphia, North Philadelphia and Germantown, for example — would appreciate their stores helping to sustain the racial discrimination and human rights violations that Sabra and Tribe hummus are supporting in Palestine and Israel.”
Mendal Polish, another organizer with Philly BDS, commented “This campaign marks a new and exciting era of Philadelphia’s involvement in the growing global BDS movement, which is building strong support amongst labor unions, nongovernmental organizations, religious organizations, universities, grocery stores and individuals.”
Philly BDS is creative partnership, including Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Arab organizations working for human rights in Israel/Palestine. The campaign to Boycott Sabra and Tribe has been endorsed by Philadelphia Jews for a Just Peace; SUSTAIN!: Stop US Tax Aid to Israel Now!; Adalah-NY: The New York Coalition for the Boycott of Israel; Al Quds Day Organizing Committee; Brandywine Peace Community; Build Bridges Not Walls: Grandparents for Peace in the Middle East; Catholic Worker Philadelphia Chapter; Global Women’s Strike-Philadelphia; Hudson Valley BDS; Ilm Institute, Ink Paper Mosaic, Jews Say No!; Middle East Crisis Response; Network of Arab-American Professionals in Philadelphia; Nico Amador, Training for Change; Oppression.org; Payday Men’s Network; Temple Students for Justice in Palestine; Whites in Anti-Racist Solidarity; and Working Group for a Grassroots Movement.