Thursday, May 19, 2011
DePaul Students Fight Over Hummus
Chicago - A student referendum at DePaul University seeking to replace the brand of hummus served on campus isn't as trivial as it may seem. According to a Jewish group, it is "one more salvo in the global assault on Israel’s right to exist."
Students for Justice in Palestine are behind the non-binding referendum, part of the annual officer elections at the university. They say Sabra’s majority owner, the Strauss group, sends financial support to two Israeli military units accused of human rights abuses.
Queens, N.Y.-based Sabra was founded in 1986, according to the company website. In 2005, Strauss Group, an Israeli international food company, purchased a majority share. In March 2008, PepsiCo and Strauss Group formed a joint-venture partnership, which operates under the name Sabra Dipping Company.
Trent Carl, a spokesman for the student group, said reaction on campus to the referendum has run the gamut from supportive to indifferent to irate.
Michael Kotzin of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago said, "As trivial as the determination of which kind of hummus to serve to students at a local university may seem, this campaign has serious ramifications.
"SJP is using misleading language to cloak their real intention in the guise of concern for human rights. In fact, their ultimate goal is the elimination of the state of Israel," he said.
He called it "one more salvo in the global assault on Israel’s right to exist."
The outcome of the referendum is non-binding, university spokeswoman Robin Florzak said.
Under DePaul’s policy, the issue was referred to the university’s Fair Business Practices Committee, a 14-member committee which consists of three faculty members, three students and eight staff representatives, a release Tuesday from DePaul said. "Their purpose it to protect the integrity of the university's mission and values by examining issues raised concerning DePaul's contracts and contractors," the release said.
The committee is conducting research into the facts surrounding Sabra, the release said. They also have met with students on both sides of the issue to collect their input. The committee is expected to make a recommendation soon to DePaul's president about Sabra based on this research and student input. Under university policy, the president of the university will make a final decision about the matter based on the facts involving the issue.