Philadelphia, PA 11/24/2010: Strauss Group, the Israeli company that co-owns the Sabra Hummus brand softened language on its website relating to its support of the Israeli Defense Force elite unit, the Golani Brigade. The Jerusalem Post reported last week that Strauss support for Golani had been deleted entirely from its English site (but kept up in Hebrew) in response to pressure from the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement. This stirred up a maelstrom of controversy for Strauss, with boycott threats from Zionists in and out of Israel, furious that Israel’s second largest food and beverage company would bow to the global BDS movement.
“The revised language on the Strauss site makes clear that purchasing Sabra Hummus subsidizes Israeli soldiers who commit human rights abuses and violate international law. That’s precisely the reason for our boycott. Strauss support for the Golani is a political act, not a humanitarian gesture,“ says Susan Landau, a member of the Philly BDS Coalition, the group that organized a “flash dance” action to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” in a supermarket near the University of Pennsylvania last month, urging customers not to buy Sabra hummus. The videotape of the action garnered national and international attention and has been viewed 30,000 times since it was posted on YouTube by Philadelphia Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
The original website read: “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…”. And it was changed to: “As part of its donations program, the Sales Division of Strauss Israel has made a contribution to the men and women who serve in the Golani brigade. The funds are designated for welfare, cultural and educational activities, such as pocket money for underprivileged soldiers, sports and recreational equipment, care packages, and books and games for the soldiers’ club. Yotvata, our dairy in the south, contributes likewise to the southern Shualei Shimshon unit.”
This latest move by Strauss happened simultaneously with the public launch of an anti-Sabra campaign at Princeton University, and DePaul University’s decision to stop selling Sabra because DePaul refuses to support “Any product or company involved with flagrant human rights violations against Palestinians or any other people does not mirror the principles on which the university is founded and is therefore not welcome on campus.”
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. 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.