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Hummus wars: row after Sabra is pulled from university's stores

The University of Manchester has denied claims by BDS activists that their campaign was responsible for the change

    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”.

    Part of the University of Manchester campus
    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.”

    • Representatives of the Sabra Dipping Company based in the United States have asked us to point out that the product in question in Manchester was not from its firm. Sabra Dipping Company manufactures and distributes exclusively in North America. The Sabra hummus sold in the UK is made by Israeli food manufacturer Osem, which has a base in Essex. It is thought BDS campaigners in Manchester targeted the wrong brand in their complaints.
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