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9th February 2018

Manchester University deny houmous removal is part of BDS campaign

The BDS campaign claim that the brand is manufactured in a region that “is complicit in human rights violations”
Manchester University deny houmous removal is part of BDS campaign
Image: fdaphotos @ Flickr

The University of Manchester has shot down claims that their decision to no longer stock a particular brand of houmous in its campus shop is the result of student activism.

The Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign at the University of Manchester described the decision as a “triumph” and believed it was a result of their campaigning.

Over 500 people had signed a petition calling for the University to no longer stock Sabra houmous, alleging that the “brand of hummus [is] manufactured in the occupied West Bank that is complicit in human rights violations in occupied Palestine” and that stocking the houmous “actively endorses Israel’s illegal occupation and human rights violations”.

In response to BDS’ claim, a University spokesperson said: “Sabra products are available from a wide range of shops in the UK and the decision to remove this product from the University shop was made by a new member of staff who was not aware of the correct procedure for making these choices.

“Coincidentally, and unconnected to the student representations, the shop has recently moved to a new supplier which does not have this product in its range. The decision to go with another supplier is in no way related to the student campaign.”

Sabra is a brand owned by PepsiCo and Strauss Group.

BDS claim that Strauss “invests in and financially supports the Golani Brigade of the Israeli armed forces”, who they allege “has carried out merciless human rights violations against Palestinians including arbitrary murders, assaults, incarcerations, evictions, and arrests of children, as well as the use of chemical weapons such as white phosphorus.”

BDS at the University of Manchester said: “We are delighted to hear that the university will no longer be financially supporting human rights violators like the Golani Brigade through their sale of Sabra products.

“However, the university still holds financial and institutional ties to Israel and its war crimes, which does not comply with their socially responsible investment policy. The university continues to aid Israel’s apartheid regime through its multi-million dollar investments in complicit companies such as Caterpillar, whose specially-modified armed bulldozers are used to demolish homes, schools, olive groves and communities in Palestine.”

Several students have questioned the significance of the product removal and were critical of the campaign’s description of their “triumph”.

Lawrence Rosenberg, a Jewish third-year History and Politics student, said: “The University has stated time and again it’s [sic] opposition to the BDS movement and has put out a statement affirming to students that it’s never a policy they could, nor would, adopt. It doesn’t surprise me therefore in the slightest that they’ve taken to trying to remove a single product from the shelves of a university shop in an attempt to try and blow wind into their sails.

“There is no context given to this little ‘who-ha’, it doesn’t make any sense to remove a single product from the shelves of a single store when the University of Manchester is legally obliged to not comply with their discriminatory movement.

“I’m not concerned about this, nor should anyone else be. Virtual signalling at it’s [sic] finest once again from everybody’s least favourite discriminatory movement.”

The BDS campaign group at the University of Manchester will protest on the 21st of February from 2 to 4 PM outside Whitworth Arch calling for “full divestment now”.

Sabra were contacted for comment but have yet to respond.

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