SJP organizers petition for schoolwide boycott of Sabra hummus, hang banner on Norris entrance


William Clark/Daily Senior Staffer

A banner that reads “Boycott Sabra” above a drawing of the Palestinian flag. Members of Students for Justice in Palestine draped the banner calling for a boycott of Sabra products by The Rock after University staff removed it from Norris University Center.

Isabel Funk and Joanna Hou

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine organized Monday to raise awareness for their petition calling for Northwestern to boycott Sabra products and replace them with a different brand. 

SJP organizers created the petition, which has garnered more than 310 signatures as of Monday night, two weeks ago. Organizers first gathered Monday afternoon to hang a “Boycott Sabra” banner at the entrance of Norris University Center. 

However, University staff took down the banner less than 15 minutes later. 

“We hope that we make it clear that even Sabra’s presence is a problem, but that is not the issue in and of itself,” Medill junior and SJP member Mubarak Hassan said. “The issue more so is NU’s relationship and priorities when it comes to protecting and caring for students from marginalized backgrounds.”

After the banner was removed, the organizers moved inside to distribute flyers to students sitting in Norris and converse with them about Israel and Palestine. They later draped the banner on a block of ice by The Rock and continued to engage in conversations with passersby. 

University spokesperson Jon Yates said the decision to take down the banner at Norris was consistent with their policy of removing banners without approved reservation or in unapproved locations. He did not comment on SJP’s petition. 

“Banner space can be reserved for inside Norris at the west main entrance or at the banner space in the tree areas just inside the Arch,” Yates said. “For any other location, arrangements must be made in advance with the individual or office responsible for the location before a banner can be hung.”

Last spring, the Associated Student Government passed a resolution supporting Palestinian human rights. The legislation garnered more than 300 student co-sponsors. In October 2021, SJP students led a silent walkout from an NU College Democrats event featuring Andrew Yang to protest his stance on Israel and Palestine and his opinions on policing. 

Hassan said the University has typically remained quiet in the face of activist demands. But because this request is “easily addressable,” SJP organizers hope the University will respond.

The University carries Sabra products at multiple locations on campus, including the Market at Norris and the C-Store. SJP left flyers with QR codes connecting to the petition around these locations to promote the boycott. 

“The University’s continued sale of their hummus, despite other more ethical alternatives, makes them complicit in the ongoing process of Israeli apartheid and genocidal acts against Palestinians, a process which Amnesty International recently declared as ‘a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity,’” the petition states. 

Sabra is part of the parent company Strauss Group, one of the largest food product manufacturers in Israel. According to the petition, Strauss Group financially supports certain brigades of the Israel Defense Forces, which Hassan said have violated human rights. 

Hassan said chapters of SJP at other schools like Harvard University and Swarthmore College have also organized around this issue, something NU’s chapter has been considering for some time.

SJP’s goal was to spread the word about Sabra’s financial support of the IDF and increase support for the petition, Hassan said. Another SJP member, who asked to remain anonymous, said SJP has no animosity about the removal of the banner.

“We’re just trying to spread the word that NU sells products, Sabra specifically, that directly funds the military occupation, and the apartheid and the genocide of Palestinians,” the organizer said. “It’s pretty direct, violent money that goes from hummus that you buy, but a lot of people don’t know that.”

The petition also highlighted the hypocrisy behind Sabra products, which organizers said are “taken from the culture of the very people who they are supporting the killing of.”

Hassan said hummus is a central part of Palestinians’ diets. He said they take “particular offense” to Sabra’s usage of money made through selling hummus. 

“(Sabra is) using an aspect of Palestinian culture, but the money’s going towards the erasure of Palestinian identity,” Hassan said. 

Hassan said student activists and Palestinian students have raised concerns to the administration about NU’s connection to “problematic” corporations in the past and received no response. 

SJP hopes the University will work with Palestinian students and help fix the issue in a tangible manner, Hassan said. He added he would “expect silence” from the University based on past experiences.

Hassan said this action is directly responding to violence inflicted by military groups, but it’s important to always organize and seek progress.

“An action like this doesn’t always have to be reactionary to violence,” Hassan said. “It’s never too soon to ask people in the NU community to learn about an issue and ask the people who are in charge of the food being supplied to hear out student concerns.”

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Twitter: @isabeldfunk

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