UC Riverside Won't Remove Sabra Hummus Despite Student Gov. Efforts

The opposition came about in response to reports that Strauss Group, joint owner of the Sabra Company, provides financial support to the Israeli military.

College campuses are hotbeds of political discussion and disagreement but the latest debate spreading through University of California Riverside has a surprising source: hummus.

On Wednesday, the Associated Students of UC Riverside voted 13-0 in favor of a resolution which calls for the removal of Sabra hummus from all campus dining services. One senator abstained. Despite the vote, the UC Riverside administration said it has no plans to remove Sabra hummus from shelves.

In a statement to the UC Riverside student newspaper, The Highlander, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Campus Spokesman James E. Grant said the administration was “aware” of the resolution but, “the University has no plans to change brands offered for sale or consumption in its stores and dining facilities.”

The resolution came about in response to media reports that Strauss Group, joint owner of the Sabra Company, provides financial support to the Israeli military.

Sabra is a U.S. based company with offices and facilities in New York, California and Virginia. 

"Sabra Dipping Company is owned by two independent global food companies- PepsiCo, based in the U.S. and Strauss Group, which is headquartered in Israel," Sabra Spokeswoman Ilya Welfeld said in a statement to NBC4.

"Each company is a separate entity and independent company," she said, adding that Sabra has "no political positions or affiliations." 

The resolution at UC Riverside said that by serving Sabra the university was “prioritizing loyalty and obedience to pro-Israel interests rather than the interests of their students, faculty, and overall campus community, especially when involved in pro-Palestine activism.”

UC Riverside briefly decided to stop selling Sabra in 2015, but later reversed course.

“The product was changed due to consideration for student preferences without consideration of the political issues raised,” the university said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times at the time. “However, we made a mistake in agreeing to replace one brand with another.”

UC Riverside could not be reached for comment. 

The new resolution says criticism of Israeli policy should not be conflated with anti-Semitism but leaders of the Jewish community on campus felt the message was clear.

“Jewish students are afraid; they are disturbed,” Chabad on Campus director Rabbi Matisyahu Devlin told The Algemeiner Jewish newspaper prior to the vote last week. “If the motion passes, the message is clear: We don’t want you here, even your hummus.”

Julia Schemmer, the UC Riverside National Affairs Director told The Highlander she was, “thrilled to see the UCR administration’s support for the livelihood and wellbeing of both current and future Jewish Highlanders.”

But students who supported the resolution are unhappy with the administration's response and have vowed to continue fighting.

"It’s unfortunate that the UCR administration has decided to turn its back on it’s students once more," ASUCR’s Vice President of External Affairs Oscar Loera Gonzalez, who sponsored the resolution, told The Highlander. “It is clear that the UCR student representatives want Sabra hummus off the shelves.”

“The UCR administration has been failing our community, our faculty, and our students for a very long time,” Gonzalez added.

In recent years, students at DePaul and Princeton University made similar but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to boycott Sabra hummus. Student government officials at other UC schools have made efforts to encourage boycotting and divestment in companies that they say enable Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians.

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