The proverb that there are no innocent bystanders in times of conflict has seldom been truer than it was this week, as a war of words broke out over hummus.
With the Sabra brand of the chickpea dip pulled from the shelves of the University of Manchester’s stores, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) claimed it as a victory for the campus boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement over “Israeli human rights violators”.
The BDS movement at the university opposed the sale of the hummus on the basis that the US-based Sabra company, partly-owned by PepsiCo, reportedly financially supports the IDF’s Golani Brigade. The boycott group accuses the infantry brigade of “merciless human rights violations against Palestinians”.
On its website the groups said the university had “confirmed its removal of Sabra hummus from their campus shop and the guarantee of not stocking Sabra products again, following pressure and campaigning.
“This success illustrates the power of student activism in working towards an end to ties with Israel’s war crimes”.
The PSC, on Twitter, claimed the move would “also go some way to disabling Israel’s cultural appropriation of Palestinian foods”.
But the claims were contradicted on Tuesday by a university statement which said the decision to stop stocking the hummus was “in no way related to the student campaign”.Apparently the product was initially pulled by a “new member of staff who was not aware of the correct procedure for making these choices,” the university said. But it declined to explain why the employee took the decision, or whether further action would be taken against the individual.
The university said it had recently changed food suppliers and now used a company which does not stock Sabra.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) welcomed the clarification, and praised the university for ensuring “Jewish students are safe, comfortable and able to freely express their Judaism and relationship with Israel. This is not a case of a successful BDS campaign.”