The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is spreading to hummus. According to a JTA article in this week’s J., “Pro-Palestinian student groups at the University of Ottawa laun-ched a campaign to ban Sabra hummus from campus.”
Before writing another word, I need to disclose that there is an open container of Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus on my desk, along with a bag of baby carrots. This is in no way an endorsement of the product. It’s just a snack.
Sabra, based in White Plains, N.Y., is co-owned by PepsiCo and Israel’s Strauss Group Ltd., a company the students allege financially supports the Golani Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces, a unit they say has been accused of human rights violations by numerous organizations.
By way of full disclosure, the tub of hummus is the 17-oz. “Party Size.” I am one of those journalists who likes to get totally immersed in the subject matter.
According to a piece in the Israeli daily Haaretz, the Golani Brigade does have a complicated image. “On one hand, it is known as a brigade that struggles with no small number of disciplinary problems and scandals, caused by bad behavior ranging from revolts against commanders to abuse of Palestinians. On the other hand, whenever the army finds itself taking on missions demanding determination, verve and esprit de corps, Golani is among the first brigades it calls.”
I must admit this hummus is tasty stuff, and low in fat and high in protein. Like a good Jewish parent, I am worrying what those Canadian students are going to do without it. For a snack, maybe they could switch to Elite chocolate bars, also made by Strauss. That is, unless they have some other unstated aversion, such as a Semitic aftertaste.
Far be it from me to tell a bunch of concerned college students what they can or cannot boycott. But, honestly, do you really think a boycott is going to get Americans to stop eating Sabra? Do you think anyone really cares if Strauss gives out snacks to Israeli soldiers? Would anyone protest giving snacks to the U.S. Marines?
Students: Maybe you’re speaking to the wrong audience. Instead, maybe you need to form a brigade of your own.
Here in the U.S., Americans have gone gonzo for garbanzos. A group called the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council has noted that U.S. chickpea production rose 60 percent between 2009 and 2011.
My hummus consumption has risen as well. Which reminds me, I need to go to the market and buy more Sabra. An article in the Tri-City Herald, “Washing-ton chickpea growers seeing bean bonanza,” said that farmers in Washing-ton state produced about 39,800 metric tons of chickpeas last year. So it’s not surprising that the container I’m dipping into says “Product of USA,” with some of those chickpeas coming from the good farmers of Washington.
Turns out Washington, out Walla Walla way, is a great place to grow chickpeas: just enough rain, and dry around harvest time. It’s a profitable crop that puts people to work — even the bugs don’t bother with it much. Still, the farmers do have their problems.
“The deer can hurt you, but the elk will kill you,” said Greg Ferrel, a Washington chickpea grower, speaking of the local fauna that find the leaves of the chickpea plant totally yummers.
So, hummus boycotters, here’s your opening. If most Americans don’t have a taste for your arguments, then you need to take your case to the fields. Make new alliances. Change your methods of cutting hummus sales. A chickpea-chewing brigade awaits your command. So what if they have antlers. Look what Santa has done with organizing reindeer.
Now, excuse me while I run out for another tub.
Edmon J. Rodman is a columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. For more Rodman, visit his blog, “Guide for the Jewplexed,” at www.virtualjerusalem.com.