UC Riverside’s recent decision to stop selling a brand of hummus partially owned by an Israeli company because of a student group’s request was a “mistake,” school officials said Wednesday.
University spokesman James Grant Jr. said campus leadership became aware only Wednesday that the school’s dining areas had stopped selling Sabra hummus and replaced it with Tapaz2Go, a gluten-free, Mediterranean-inspired brand hummus.
The university has reversed itself and will sell both brands, Grant said.
In a letter sent to the school’s vice president of internal affairs and student government leaders, Students for Justice in Palestine said campus restaurants selling Sabra brand hummus violated the university’s "Tartan Soul" – a reference to the values of integrity, accountability, excellence and respect associated with campus mascot the Scotty Highlander.
“The product was changed due to consideration for student preferences without consideration of the political issues raised,” the university’s statement said. “However, we made a mistake in agreeing to replace one brand with another.”
According to its website, Sabra was founded by Yehuda Pearl in 1986 in Queens, New York. In 2005, the Israel-based food and beverage company Strauss Group purchased a 51% stake in the company. Strauss Group also provided financial support to the Golani brigade, part of Israel’s military force, according to a 2010 New York Times article.
Multiple universities in 2010 and 2011 protested their campuses selling the company’s chickpea spread.
The Strauss Group webpage no longer carries any reference to Golani, though media reports indicate that it did at one time.
“Our passion is to bring different flavors to your table with our family of dips and spreads,” the Strauss Group’s webpage for Sabra reads. “There’s a whole wide world of flavor out there, and Sabra invites you to experience it – one dip at a time.”
UC Riverside began selling Sabra hummus last fall, according to a statement from the student group. Just a few months earlier, the campus’ student senate had passed a divestment resolution that called for student tuition dollars to be steered away from supporting “the occupation of Palestine.”
The school’s dining heads had agreed to change the brand with little fuss, SJP President Tina Matar said in a statement.
The university regrets this instance,” the university’s statement said. “In trying to be responsive to student taste preferences, a decision was made without proper consideration.”
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