Philadelphia, PA-11/17/2010: Strauss Group, the Israeli company that co-owns the Sabra Hummus brand, has removed all references to its support of the Israeli military from the English-language portion its website after a video criticizing its support for Israel human rights abuses circulated widely around the internet. Sabra is the number one selling hummus brand in the United States.
As part of a campaign to pressure a local grocery chain to stop selling Sabra Hummus, Philadelphia activists had staged a “flash dance” action in a supermarket near the University of Pennsylvania on October 24. In the action, approximately 25 black-attired protesters in red-sequined headbands danced to the tune of Lady Gaga’s popular song, “Telephone,” sang lyrics urging the store and its customers not to “buy into Israeli apartheid,” and chanted “No Justice, No Chickpeas!”
The videotape of the action garnered national and international attention and was viewed over 20,000 times in the first week after it was posted on YouTube by Philadelphia Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a recently-formed coalition that works to support human rights in Israel/Palestine and to change U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
Kate Zaidan, a spokesperson for the group, reported that the Strauss Group had boasted of the company’s “adoption” of the Golani Reconnaissance platoon and other Israeli soldiers as recently as October 31st on its website, but that this language has since disappeared. Strauss is known for its vigorous moral and financial support of the Israeli army, particularly the “elite” Golani Brigade, which has a history of severe human rights abuses against Palestinian and Lebanese people.
Prior to October 31st, 2010, the English-language Strauss website stated:
“Our connection with soldiers goes as far back as the country, and even further. We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support…We have adopted the Golani reconnaissance platoon for over 30 years…” (Corporate Responsibility, Over 70 years of Community Involvement, www.strauss-group.com).
“We notice that while Stauss’s English-language website no longer makes these claims, the Hebrew-language part of the site still includes them,” Ms. Zaidan said. She added, “Philly BDS is asking that Strauss Group clarify whether the removal of the references means that Strauss no longer supports the Golani brigade, or whether it is simply an acknowledgment that support for the Israeli military is no longer seen as beneficial to Strauss’s international image. We hope Strauss will confirm that the company now supports the 2005 Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.”
In 2005, Palestinian civil society representatives issued a call for global a 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.
In recent months, BDS activists in cities including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New Orleans have staged creative actions that interfere with stores, restaurants, and public gatherings in efforts to dramatize and call attention to the worldwide campaign for justice in Palestine and Israel. The BDS Movement, which is modeled after the international movement that helped to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, has racked up increasing successes as unions, governments and individual consumers are choosing to refuse to do business with companies that support Israeli human rights violations.