The hummus that can’t spread

A University of Ottawa student group has launched a petition around campus in an attempt to get the school to remove a brand of hummus from the campus.

The groups Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), the Palestinian Student Association and Young Jews for Social Justice are arguing that the brand of hummus goes against their values. The U.S.-based company, Sabra, that sells the hummus and Sabra’s parent company, the Strauss Group, are at the centre of the argument. In the past, the Strauss Group admitted to donating money to the Israeli Armed Forces.

“The issue here is that the Strauss Group have funded the notorious Israeli Army Brigade which has committed various human rights violations,” said Assma Basalamah, spokesperson for the SPHR.

The Israeli Defense Force has been listed as a supported financial cause on the group’s website as recent as 2011, when a Philadelphia-based campaign brought the issue to light. The removal of the Israeli Defense Force led to questions of whether this meant the financial support had ended.

The campaign was announced at a press conference at the university’s campus as part of the Israeli Apartheid Week 2014 on March 3.

“Sabra operates out of the U.S., students should be aware and involved with these decisions,” said Basalamah.

The student group originally made contact with the University of Ottawa Food Services asking to meet about the issue, which Food Services agreed to. Basalamah said that when Food Services found out the reason for their meeting, they called it off.

“The school said in an email they could not meet with us as they are an apolitical organization, but we feel by saying that and refusing to meet with us they are taking a political stance,” said Basalamah.

In the last three years, student groups at Philadelphia’s Princeton University and Chicago’s DuPaul University waged unsuccessful campaigns to have the product removed from campus shelves. The Ottawa groups will be hoping to reverse the trend, first by raising awareness by including a petition to present to Food Services.

“We invited Food Services to the press conference but they chose not attend, we hope to work with them in the future,” said Basalamah.

One thing the group wants to be made clear: they are not anti-hummus.

“It’s funny, students come up to us on campus and ask us ‘are you the ones who hate hummus?’ when that isn’t the case at all,” explained Basalamah.