Facts On the Dining Hall? Sabra Hummus was the Main Get For UCR Protestors

Toronto, ON - SEPTEMBER 29 Campbell's hearty noodles, chicken flavor, Sabra Hummus and pretzels, snack fare that is served in economy section of Air Canada flights. (Chris So/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
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Earlier this month, University of California at Riverside, a campus in the UC system, reached a negotiated settlement with the encampment organizers on the campus which will allow the peaceful deconstruction of the university encampment. Initial reports suggested that UCR had in the agreement opened the door to possible disinvestment. But it’s more complicated than that. The individual UC schools don’t control their endowments. They are controlled by an investment office for the whole system. They agreed to create a task force to “explore the removal of UCR’s endowment” from that central office and if that can happen to invest “in a manner that will be financially and ethically sound,” with a particular emphasis on arms manufacturers.

But if you look at the agreement, which is an agreement between Students for Justice in Palestine and the university, the most concrete thing SJP got was an ongoing review which they hope will lead to Sabra Hummus being banned from university dining halls. (The agreement is signed by four university officials, the president of the campus SJP and the campus SJP’s lead negotiator.) I’m not kidding about this. Sabra Hummus is the only entity explicitly mentioned in the whole agreement.

That agreement item reads: “Commitment to bimonthly meetings with the AVC of Auxiliary Services and an ongoing review of Sabra Hummus consistent with existing produce review processes until we can find a solution.”

SJP negotiator Samia Alkam called the wording of the Sabra Hummus section “very vague” but hopes it will lead to the hummus being banned from the campus. The chancellor’s office says: “Sabra’s availability on campus will be reviewed in the same manner as other vendors.”  

Some background is necessary on Sabra Hummus. It was founded in the U.S. in 1986. But in 2005 it was purchased by an Israeli food conglomerate, Strauss. Then in 2008 it became a joint venture between Strauss and Frito-Lay, each company owning 50%. So is it an Israeli company? Sorta. It controls 60% of the U.S. hummus market. And the hummus is produced in Virginia.

One additional point: “Sabra” is a name for a Jew born in Israel. We don’t need to get into the symbolism beyond that meaning. But the point is the brand name has a strongly Israeli flavor, quite apart from who owns the company.

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