Philadelphia, PA 12/5/2010. Members of Philly BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) staged a weekend “Mime-In” at the Fresh Grocer supermarket’s flagship store at 40th and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia on Saturday. The action was the latest public demonstration in a growing international campaign to boycott Sabra and Tribe hummus brands because of their owners’ support for human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine. Dressed as mimes, standing silently
outside the store’s entrance holding signs reading “Don’t be silent about Israeli apartheid,” the activists distributed information about the boycott and collected signatures on a petition asking the store’s management to stop selling Sabra and Tribe hummus.
A smaller group of activists inside the store formed a silent shopping caravan, pushing grocery carts through the store while wearing placards about the boycott. Most shoppers reacted to the caravan with curiosity, and some expressed strong support of the boycott. After one activist was seen photographing the caravan inside the store, security personnel detained him for over an hour and threatened to have him arrested unless he destroyed the photographic images on his camera. Though police were summoned, no arrests were made.
Six weeks ago in the same West Philadelphia store, Philly BDS staged a flash dance to a Lady Gaga hit and sang lyrics urging shoppers to support the boycott. The video of that action, which to date has been viewed over 34,000 times on YouTube, sparked a rapid expansion of interest in the hummus boycott, particularly on college and university campuses in the United States. Students at Princeton and DePaul Universities have recently initiated calls for boycott of Sabra on their campuses, and groups at several other campuses are considering doing so.
Sabra Hummus is jointly owned by Pepsico and by the Strauss Group, an Israeli corporation that has proudly supported a unit of the Israeli military, known as the Golani Brigade, which is known as particularly brutal toward Palestinians. The Golani Brigade has been cited for numerous human rights violations since 1948, including Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of whom were unarmed civilians, in just three weeks. The Jerusalem Post reported last month that Strauss’ support for the Golani Brigade had been deleted entirely from the English-language portion of its website in response to pressure from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, though the Hebrew portion of the site remained unchanged. The Strauss Group has since modified their English-language website to reassert the company’s support for the Golani Brigade.
In addition to Sabra Hummus, the boycott also targets Tribe Hummus, which is owned by the Osem Group, a key corporate supporter of the Jewish National Fund. Because by Israeli law all land owned or administered by the JNF is reserved for the exclusive use of “the Jewish people in perpetuity,” the JNF has played a key role in the “judaization” of Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of its indigenous people.
In 2005, Palestinian civil society representatives issued a call for a global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel until Israel complies with international law by ending its occupation of Palestine lands, dismantling the “separation barrier” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, granting full and equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recognizing the right of exiled Palestinians to return to their country. Organized along the lines of the Anti- Apartheid movement against South Africa, the BDS movement has burgeoned globally over the past five years, with hundreds of separate campaigns targeting Israel’s economic, academic, and cultural institutions.