The truth is that 50 percent of Sabra Dipping Company is owned by PepsiCo, and 50 percent is owned by the Strauss Group, an Israeli company. The Strauss Group sponsors a range of community outreach programs, including raising money for premature infants in Serbia and providing scholarship funds to children with cancer. The Strauss Group’s list of projects also includes a “support the troops” program, for which the company provides care packages of free hummus to Israeli soldiers in the Golani Brigade. The company has not been providing weapons or ammunition; it is simply giving the 18-year-olds in uniform free hummus and a little moral support.
You are being deceived because the language on the referendum that the Princeton Committee on Palestine has placed on the ballot in the next week’s USG election is deliberately vague. The referendum will read, “On behalf of the student body, the USG will make a formal recommendation to University Dining Services that it offer an alternative to Sabra hummus in all University retail locations.” Does this referendum seek an alternative in addition to or instead of Sabra? I’m confused. To be honest, I would not care if Sabra Hummus sat on the shelves next to Tribe, Athenos, Trader Joe’s and Cedar’s hummus. But the Facebook group, the posters around campus and the online petition to collect signatures for the ballot measure specifically say that the goal of the measure’s framers is for the University to stop selling Sabra Hummus.
But let’s set the implications of the referendum’s vague language aside for a moment. Would a boycott of Sabra Hummus be justified?
If we are to suggest that a boycott is appropriate, then by this logic we might also be tempted to boycott Coca-Cola and other American products that have “support the troops” programs. Just as in the Israeli military, individuals in the United States military have committed war crimes. Of course, a boycott of Coca-Cola would be absurd. The United States military as a whole should not be judged by the abuses at Abu Ghraib any more than the Israeli military should be judged for isolated instances of abuse by members of its ranks. Furthermore, Israel, like the United States, prosecutes its soldiers for unlawful behavior. Thus, affiliation with the American or Israeli military in a hummus- or soda-donating capacity does not implicate a company in violations of human rights.
You are being deceived because you are being made to believe that putting pressure on Israel is sufficient to resolve the conflict in the Middle East. The leaders of the anti-Sabra campaign imply that by attacking Sabra hummus or even divesting from Israel we can bring peace to the region. Israel is already making compromises. While we have been blinded by frivolous debate over a creamy, chickpea delicacy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday proposed to his cabinet a 90-day extension to the freeze on building settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu hopes that the borders of the future Palestinian state will be decided within this time frame, which would render further discussion of settlement construction in Israeli territory moot. The Middle East conflict is more complicated than hummus. I strongly encourage this campus to focus its intellectual energy on the real issues rather than shift its focus to minute, immature and pathetic distractions.
You are being deceived because there will be a referendum for which you may be tempted to vote. You may be so inclined because despite its vague language, the promotional campaign for the referendum contains all the key words that make you feel as if you are making a difference in this world: “boycott,” “human rights,” etc. But I implore you to open your eyes; you are being deceived because this conversation is not really about human rights, and it is not really about market diversification. PCP is encouraging you to vote for a clause that starts down the road of delegitimizing the State of Israel, because it targets an Israeli company for feeding the soldiers in its own country’s army. So when you vote Monday, resist the veil of deception. Vote against the immaturity that is this referendum and reclaim the intellectualism and thoughtfulness that is required in a conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Samson Schatz is a sophomore from Los Angeles, Calif and a vice president of Tigers for Israel. He can be reached at email@example.com.