Op-Ed Columns

The Campus Battle over Hummus

By Jerry Gordon

-Who would have ever thought that the containers of Sabra brand hummus, baba ganoush and other products would become the objects of alleged human rights violations on college campuses and elsewhere in the U.S. But with anything concerning Israel on college campuses these days, even food products become embroiled in controversy between opponents on the extreme left and those objecting to still yet another call for divestment of products connected with Israel.

DePaul University in Chicago temporarily suspended the sale of Sabra products in mid-November, but after review, rescinded the boycott. Note this comment from a New York Times report on the De Paul campus hummus kerfuffle:

Michael Kotzin, executive vice president of the Jewish United Fund, said in a statement on DePaul’s reversal that the anti-Sabra campaign revealed deep anti-Israel sentiment.

“As trivial as the determination of what hummus to serve to university students might seem, there are serious ramifications to this issue,” Mr. Kotzin said. “It is clear that this action, following on earlier boycotts of Israeli culture and Israeli academics around the world, is but one component of a global assault on the legitimacy of the State of Israel itself.”

The absurdity of this campus culinary war against Israel was evident this past week, when a referendum requesting competitive products for retail sales and for use at the common tables was defeated at Princeton University by a vote of 1014 to 699.

Here’s the background. Sabra Dipping Products, LLC is a Farmingdale, N.Y. based company with investment partners from The Strauss Group, Israel’s second largest food concern, and PepsiCo, Inc. The Strauss Group has sent gift packages to soldiers of the famed Golani Brigade, an elite unit of the IDF, often accused, unfairly in our view, of alleged human rights violations, especially during Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 to January 2009. The Strauss Group connection was seized upon by both anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian campus and leftist extremist groups in the U.S., like the Socilialist Workers Party for boycott of Sabra products. They conflate the gift packages sent by the Strauss group to Golani Brigade soldiers as evidence of support for false allegations of Israeli apartheid treatment of Palestinians. The removal of Sabra hummus products from college dining tables was also viewed as a way of focusing on Israeli obduracy over settlement construction policies for the disputed territories of the West Bank.

In the case of Princeton, leaders of both the Princeton Committee for Palestine (PCP), Yoel Bitran ’11 and Tigers for Israel, Jeffrey Mensch, ’11 are Jewish. Note these comments from Bitran, Mensch and the leaders of the Princeton Center for Jewish Life (Hillel) in The Daily Princetonian report on the failed referendum:

In an e-mail statement, Yoel Bitran ’11, president of PCP, said he was excited by the high amount of student support despite the referendum’s defeat. “The main goal of this initiative was to raise awareness about Sabra and its association to Israel’s human rights violations,” he said. “In that sense we have been extremely successful.” Bitran added that PCP still hopes to convince the university to provide an alternative hummus.

The officers of Tigers for Israel led by president Jeffrey Mensch ’11, expressed satisfaction with the result in a joint e-mail statement. “The fringe, anti-Israel elements of the campus community and their allies in the national BDS [boycott, divestment, and sanctions] movement have utterly failed in their attempt to trick Princeton students into starting down the path of delegitimizing the Jewish state,” they said.

The Center for Jewish Life co-presidents Kerry Brodie ’12 and Mendy Fisch ’11 said in an e-mail statement Friday, “We are proud that the Princeton student body defeated the referendum.”

For those of us addicted to a Mediterranean diet, the best antidote for this absurd secondary culinary boycott against Israel is simply to stock up on delicious Sabra brand products. As for campus Jewish leftist liberal students who support this BDS nonsense, they suffer from the absurdity of what Harvard Medical School Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Kenneth Levin calls in his book of the same name “The Oslo Syndrome.” They need some reality therapy and deprogramming, big time.

Jerry Gordon is a correspondent and commentator formerly of Fairfield and now of Pensacola, Fla.

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