Guilford students organize for divestment from Sabra Dipping Company

By Brittany Murdock, Staff Writer

Image from www.junkfoodblog.com.
Image from http://www.junkfoodblog.com.

Guilford College’s Dining service, Meriwether Godsey, purchases the Sabra Hummus cups you may have seen in the Grill. These small, to-go cups are being boycotted by several groups on campus.

Sabra Hummus is jointly owned by PepsiCo and the Strauss Corporation. The Strauss Corporation is an Israeli food company who monetarily funds the Golani Brigade, an infantry unit of the Israeli Defense Force. The Golani Brigade has been accused of committing human rights abuses against Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Several groups on campus, including Students For Justice in Palestine, Sexual Assault Awareness and Advocacy, and Students Allied Against Privilege and Supremacy, believe Guilford should divest from Sabra Hummus due to its financial entanglements with the Golani Brigade.

“I would be disappointed if Guilford didn’t divest,” said sophomore SAAPS Member Alexandra Haridopolos. “This is something that is so in line with our core values. This is a political issue but at the end of the day, human rights violations are being committed.”

Guilford College’s Dining service, Meriwether Godsy, is willing to support the students’ decision.

“We understand the issue and we are sympathetic about it, but before we take an active role, we need community support that suggest more than 20% of the community agrees,” said Snehal Deshmukh, the director of Dining Services at Guilford.

“I would support divesting from Sabra Hummus,” said sophomore Logan Hardin. “I would be able to easily adjust to a change like this.”

Guilford isn’t the only school to attempt to boycott Sabra Hummus. Schools such as Princeton, DePaul, and Earlham have all made efforts to boycott this brand.  These attempts have generally been unsuccessful, with backlash coming from the students who believe divesting from Sabra is an expression of anti-Israel senitment.

At Earlham, administration accepted the proposal of divesting from Sabra but by September of 2012, Sabra cups were back on campus.

“When the school allowed the hummus cups back on campus, it was sad to know that our school is okay with having something that goes against our principles and practices as a Quaker school,” said first-year student Ghadeer Awwad in an email interview.

International accompaniment organizations have documented an increase in the number of serious human rights violations against the Palestinian people. Violations include the intimidation, abuse, and arrest of children, denying access to roads or walkways, using religious reference to insult, intimidate and provoke Palestinians, and illegally entering and taking away Palestinian homes and property.

Golani Brigade soldiers.  Image from www.mondoweiss.net.
Golani Brigade soldiers. Image from http://www.mondoweiss.net.

Some students believe that purchasing Sabra hummus is in contradiction with Guilford’s commitment to its core values.

“In the Fall, we divested from Chickfila because of their stance on gay marriage and Guilford as an institution stood against Amendment One,” said sophomore SAAPS member Sara Minsky. “If we are going to have these core values, we want to live into them and I think this is an example of how we do that.”

Visiting Instructor of Justice and Policy Daniel Rhodes traveled to Palestine last year with Max Carter and has studied the Israel-Palestine issue over the years.

“I think the issue we really have to get to the heart of is not necessarily supporting the Israeli cause or the Palestinian cause because you can balance the two,” said Rhodes. “It still doesn’t give them the right to engage in human rights violations.”

The topic of divesting from Sabra is a deeply political issue, both in a global context and on Guilford’s campus.

“I think that this is another example of Guilford expressing its pro-Palestine, anti-Israel stance,” said one student, who asked not to be named.  “I don’t think people are hearing from students who are against divesting because we’re afraid of the consequences of having an opinion that’s different from what the people around us hold.”

“In my opinion, purchasing Sabra Hummus is the same thing as giving an Israeli teen soldier a bullet to kill a Palestinian trying to farm his/her land, or defending his/her right in traveling in his/her own country,” said first-year student from Walid Mosarsaa, who is from Palestine.

Petitions and flyers have been circulating around campus, and support for the divestment initiative appears to be increasing as more and more clubs and departments begin to engage in dialogue about divestment.

“I do not accept that this won’t happen,” said Haridopolos. “I am going to do everything I can to make it happen.”

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9 thoughts on “Guilford students organize for divestment from Sabra Dipping Company

  1. Why is nobody who opposes this boycott interviewed? I’m not saying I oppose it, just that it’s pretty poor journalism which you only interview one side of an issue. Especially when I personally know a number of people who oppose this action.

    1. There is, actually, a student interviewed in the article who opposes the boycott, although they didn’t feel comfortable having their name attached to what they said. Brittany had a lot of trouble locating students who felt comfortable sharing their issues with the boycott, unfortunately.

    2. ““I think that this is another example of Guilford expressing its pro-Palestine, anti-Israel stance,” said one student, who asked not to be named. “I don’t think people are hearing from students who are against divesting because we’re afraid of the consequences of having an opinion that’s different from what the people around us hold.”

  2. “Brittany had a lot of trouble locating students who felt comfortable sharing their issues with the boycott, unfortunately.” Because students are feeling harassed and guilt tripped into signing it. They feel guilty about eating sabra humus “because everyone tells them they’re wrong for doing so.” A number of people on campus feel this really is a Pro-Palestine, Anti-Israel stance because it’s painted as a “poor Palestinians, bad Israelis” argument. There is no mention of what Palestine is doing to Israel. In fact, Students for Justice in Palestine is on lists of top Anti-Israel groups in America. The group commonly compares Israelis to the Nazis which is extremely offensive. You’re not presenting a fair argument. I’m not saying Israel is the victim and Palestine is the bad one. Both sides have their faults, but when the only information the community is getting is painting a biased view, that’s when this is not just about a divestment.

  3. ‘Deeply Opposed’ hit the nail on the head with the hostile, anti-Israel environment at Guilford. These sentiments are a mix of social-trend, anti-establishment jargon and a refusal to condemn a perceived “underdog” for faults that are aggressively criticized in other circumstances. For example, Guilford students have harshly condemned Chick-Fil-A for it’s stance against homosexuality, but continue to support a Palestinian populous that actually persecutes homosexuals.

    This wavering of humanitarian values when discussing other cultures is, sadly, all too common among western pseudo-intellectuals, and is discussed at length in “The Caged Virgin” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ali describes and explains how western critics refuse to apply our humanitarian standards to non-western cultures, because they fear being perceived as culturally imperialistic. It’s this notion that other cultures have their own value system and their own beliefs; “they don’t know any better, so who are we to judge them?” She then explains how “withholding criticism and ignoring differences are racism in its purest form” and that they “trap the people who represent these cultures in a state of backwardness.” Not only do we fail those cultures by refusing to hold them accountable, but we fail ourselves by conceding on our previously established minimal humanitarian standards. If we support homosexuality and denounce intolerance, we cannot do so on one front but not another simply because the playing field has changed locations. This stance and these contractions are all too ripe at Guilford, particularly when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Sadly however, the anti-Israel sentiment at Guilford is also largely perpetrated by staff and professors, namely Max Carter in his role as Campus Ministries Coordinator and organizer of both Middle East Emphasis Week and yearly trips to Palestine. In approaching, considering and discussing the Middle East, professors at Guilford promote the non-critical stance discussed above and cast all citizens of Middle Eastern countries as helpless victims. Guilfordian articles are full of quotes about standing up for those that don’t have a voice, and that view the region solely as an “us vs. them” scenario of the USA and Israel bullying the helpless. While this dichotomy is absolutely true at times and in some situations, the absence of any critical lens casts a one-sided perspective of the entire region, its people, and the Muslim world in general.

    And it could not be more true of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The stance conveyed by Carter and other professors is that Palestine is a helpless underdog whose completely absent of fault, while Israel can only do bad. Guilford does not analyze the complexities of the conflict and does not point a critical eye toward both sides equally. This mentality permeates student attitudes, as they adopt this position blindly. Then, that position’s roots form a stronger hold on the facts of the situation: that both sides have committed faults and injustices, that both sides deserve criticism, and that the issue is actually a very complex one.

    The popularity of this staunch anti-Israel sentiment then alienates students who might otherwise speak out. It snuffs out the flame of critical thinking. Even the Guilfordian member above stated that they “had a lot of trouble locating students who felt comfortable sharing their issues with the boycott.” What’s worse, this anti-Israel stance quickly becomes an anti-simetic one. Ask any Rabbi in the greater Greensboro area; witness the reception of pro-Israel speakers or groups on campus; talk to students of Hillel about how welcome they are at the hut. The anti-Israel attitude quickly becomes aggressive and disrespectful, and quickly turns to anti-semitism.

    And, in the mean time, true injustices go overlooked because the students and staff of Guilford refuse to denounce another culture. Well, here’s one: the selling of daughters in the wake of the Syrian civil war: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57584506/syrian-refugees-sell-daughters-in-bid-to-survive/. And let’s not forget honor killings, female genital mutilation, stoning executions, rape victims forced to marry their rapists under Shariah law, and other practices that are common throughout the Middle East, and that truly deserve our attention. Let’s be honest, is this Humus boycott a matter of holding true to our values, or is it simply another wave of Guilford students showing how “culturally aware” and “sensitive” they are by hopping on the newest anti-establishment bandwagon?

  4. I always found Guilford college to be very anti Israel. For such a good academic school it’s surprising how ignorant and uninformed the students there are about the actual history of Israel and Palestine. It was always a mob unwashed kool aid drinkers lock in step with whatever the left wing/radical mantra was. In the end however, I think it was a bunch of ignorant trust fund babies who wanted to go play hippy. Glad that I was able to meet people with a real conviction/ spine in the US Army.

  5. It is important to support Israel and I absolutely support having Sabra Hummus on campus. The brutalities committed against the Palestinians by their own, and anyone else who disagrees with them–think of the bombs dropped on children’s playgrounds last year, is abominable. While Muslim organizations on campus are highly organized, it is important to remember that we must not be afraid to express our opinions on campus or anywhere else. If we don’t speak because of fear===they win. NO!

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