Dipping in controversy: A look at Princeton’s hummus debate

The troublemakers in the flesh. (image source: http://chewandswallow.wordpress.com/)

The troublemakers in the flesh. (image source: http://chewandswallow.wordpress.com/)

It all started with a chickpea.

Harmless, you say? Not so, the Princeton Committee on Palestine (PCP) retorts.

And the battle begins. If you haven’t heard about The Great Chickpea Debate that has consumed campus for the past week or so, read on. You might be confused as to what’s really being debated, what you’ll be voting on, or just what this means for your taste buds.

So let’s take a step back and look at what’s actually brought us here.

Round 1: The controversy begins with PCP’s concerns about the Strauss group, partial owner of Sabra, the company that manufactures all the hummus sold on campus. In a petition to ban Sabra hummus, PCP President Yoel Bitran ’11 writes,

Sabra is partially owned by the Strauss group, which is an Israeli company that has a history of supporting the Golani Brigade of the Israeli Defense Forces. The Golani brigade is known as a particularly reckless one and has been accused by human rights organizations of numerous human rights violations…The Princeton Committee on Palestine objects to the fact that Sabra is the only hummus brand that is offered in most university stores, and that students who wish to eat this traditional Arab food are forced to buy a product that is connected to human rights abuses against Arab civilians.

PCP creates this “Boycott Sabra Hummus” event on November 14 and things start to heat up.

Round 2: Activists and smooth-hummus-lovers alike rise up in protest of the petition, asserting either that the Strauss group supports the entire Israeli Defense Force – not just the Golani Brigade – with care packages and is in its right to do so, or that Sabra hummus is too delicious to outlaw, or both. Tigers for Israel (TFI) members form this Facebook event on November 16, with 2,362 people currently attending, which features such supportive comments as “Boycott HAMAS, not HUMMUS!” and “Eff the haters, I ain’t eatin’ that other stuff!!!” TFI co-vice-president Samson Schatz ’13 offers his take on PCP’s position in the Prince.

Round 3: PCP gets 200 online signatures and takes the issue to a referendum in the USG’s next election. Here’s where some people are crying foul: the original language might have suggested the intention of replacing Sabra with an alternative hummus, but the submitted referendum language asks only for an alternative of Sabra on University shelves. So, are we looking at a future without those cute little hummus-and-pretzel packs, or just with the option to choose a hummus funding care packages for Israeli soldiers?

Round 4: The debate spreads beyond Nassau Street; IvyGate chimes in. The Huffington Post and The Observer follow suit. Warns The Observer, “Your hummus is no longer safe.”

Round 5: The referendum is brought to the USG’s Sunday night meeting in Frist. Schatz appeals the referendum (the first appeal of a USG referendum, actually), on grounds of PCP changing the language, making the 200 petitions ineligible, and thus disrupting the democratic process. Bitran defends changing the language on grounds of not knowing how rigorous the process of proposal-submission-voting would actually be. USG gives PCP two options: either allow the original, stricter language to be placed on the referendum this week, or collect another 200 signatures for the new language to be adopted, in hopes of a run-off next week.

Round 6: PCP decides to collect the signatures to place the new language in a referendum. Bitran writes in a Facebook message:

We have only 2 days, Monday and Tuesday, to collect 200 signatures. We cannot do this alone. We need all of you to print out this petition ask people to sign them; people in your dining halls, in your Eating Clubs, in your Arabic classes, in your sports teams, your student organizations etc.

We’ll have a table tomorrow from 2-4 and 8-10 in Frist in case people want to come sign the petition then or join us in asking for signatures. Please take just 30 mins to help.

If PCP collects the signatures, the new language in next week’s voting would argue for an alternative hummus to be placed alongside Sabra on University store shelves. We’ll let you know how it turns out.

2 thoughts on “Dipping in controversy: A look at Princeton’s hummus debate

  • Most of our oil comes from Saudi Arabia. Perhaps Jewish students should boycott the use of oil and petroleum on campus because the Saudis use this money to support terrorism, racism, murder, not just in Princeton or in New Jersey, but all over the world!

    Only Arabs would have the audacity to call others racists!

    Nofia Shem Tov

  • Hello! I am student at Guilford College in North Carolina. I am bringing this issue to my school’s food service provider and was wondering what alternatives were suggested at Princeton?

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