In 2022 you still cannot buy Sabra hummus on the University of Manchester campus because of a debacle surrounding protest, backlash and ultimately mistaken identity.
On February 8 2018 the University of Manchester removed the brand Sabra hummus from being sold on university campus after backlash from university campaigners surrounding the ties of the company to the Golani Brigade.
Campaigners for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement wanted the university to remove the hummus after it emerged that the US based-company Sabra hummus, a division of PepsiCo and Strauss Group, had been helping to fund a specific wing of Israeli army named the Golani Brigade.
The Golani Brigade is an Israeli infantry brigade that BDS at the time alleged “are known to commit a myriad of war crimes in Palestine.” The campaigners aimed to highlight the violations committed by the military force and wanted the brand to stop being sold and to be removed from campus. In selling the hummus on campus they accused the University of being “complicit in human rights violations through the funding of the ‘elite’ branch of the Israeli army.”
The UoM branch of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement started an online petition to remove the product from the Student Union shelves. The campaign included the suggestion that purchasing the hummus at the university would mean an endorsement of the companies links to the IDF branch, which may inadvertently help the Israeli Infantry brigade. The hummus was removed from campus shortly after.
Speaking on the success of the campaign the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) claimed a victory for the BDS movement at the University of Manchester and abroad: “This success illustrates the power of student activism in working towards an end to ties with Israel’s war crimes.”
However, the University of Manchester denied that the BDS movement was the reason for the pulling of the product stating “the product was pulled by a new member of staff who was not aware of the correct procedure for making these choices.” It was not elaborated on as to why the action was taken by the employee or if the product would be reinstated but they did not say that they would start selling the hummus again.
In yet another twist to this, when reporting on the situation, the online news source JC.com, were contacted by the Sabra dipping company, who said that the product subject to the boycott was not part of its firm and they were not responsible for its sale. Sabra is exclusively distributed in North America and the Sabra hummus that is sold in the UK is made by Israeli food manufacturer Osem, who are owned by Nestlé. The company believes that BDS campaigners in Manchester targeted the wrong brand and mistakenly had the Sabra UK hummus which has no connection to the Israeli army taken off of the shelves.
One third year history student, who would prefer not be named, said that the whole situation “was probably the right decision.” However, the student went on to add “that was almost 4 years ago but we should probably focus on larger issues as well… it’s all well and good banning a brand of hummus but surely there are things we can do to actively aid in the Israel/Palestine conflict right now, which would be way more effective.”
To this day the Sabra hummus is not sold on the UoM campus and shows no signs of being brought back, however it’s still not entirely clear why the hummus is no longer being sold. Read me on the event in our archived story online.