Webster University’s website says that the university is advancing the study of international human rights issues, as well as advocacy for the protection and promotion of fundamental rights. At the same time, campus cafeterias are selling Sabra Hummus, a product which boosts a major human rights violator, the Israeli military.
Sabra Hummus is co-owned by the Strauss Group and PepsiCo. According to The Jerusalem Post, Strauss referenced their ongoing financial support for the Golani Brigade of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on their English-language website. Strauss removed the statement after the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement held boycott campaigns against the group in the U.S.
BDS is a Palestinian-led international movement that boycotts Israeli products and services until Israel complies with international law and Palestinian rights. According to their website, BDS is a strategy that allows people of conscience to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice.
The Palestinian people have been living under the Israeli military occupation since 1948. They continue to face Israel’s ethnic cleansing, colonization, detention, intimidation, abuse, racial discrimination and military occupation.
Israel decided to construct a physical barrier in June 2002 separating Israel from the West Bank to regulate the entry of Palestinians into Israeli land. The barrier is a six to eight-meters high concrete wall with checkpoints in areas consisting of electric and barbed-wired fencing, security metal gates and patrol towers for surveillance.
Palestinians need special permits to cross checkpoints from the West Bank to the Israeli side. The law states that a person needs to be over the age of 16 and own an ID to apply for a permit. Under the age of 16, he/she could cross the checkpoint with their birth certificate and a parent.
When I was 13, my mother and I planned to go visit the old city of Jerusalem on the other side of the wall. I had no ID and therefore had no permit. I only had my mom and her excited smile of spending the day with me in one of the oldest and richest cities of culture and beauty. We took a taxi from the small village we lived in to the main checkpoint in Bethlehem.
The first thing I saw was the giant, monstrous wall of imprisonment. A view that has become rather normal for my eyes. There were two paths on the right side, an entrance and an exit. The paths were separated by a six-foot brick wall with metal bars on top. I was counting the bars when my mom called my name and I ran to catch up with her speed walking towards the first gate.
She went through the metal gate and a young, European-looking soldier asked for her papers. She gave the soldier her ID and permit and I came closer reaching her hand in attempt to show I was her daughter. He examined the documents and looked deeply into her dark eyes while returning them.
The man with the gun then looked at me and asked for my papers. I told him I was too young to have an ID to apply for a permit and I showed him my birth certificate. The look on his face was one of cold-heartedness. He returned the certificate and said he did not care how old I was. “You can’t pass,” he said.
Heat started eating my body and I felt heaviness in my throat. I was crying by the second sentence of arguing. He told me that I am his slave and he is my lord. If he says I can not pass, it means I can not pass. I was 13 and being told I was worthless.
My mother held me tight on the way home and said words of encouragement as if giving me hope that there was something better in this world. But that was the world I knew.
For 68 years, this is the world that millions of Palestinians have known.
The United Nations resolution ES-10/13 declares that the barrier is illegal and should be torn down. The resolution was vetoed by the U.S.
According to The Guardian, Israel controls 62 percent of the West Bank. That means control by checkpoints, soldiers and weapons as well as control over land, water, electricity, natural resources, transportation and sources of livelihood.
The Golani Brigade and the Israeli Defense Forces have a reliance on American support. As a university, buying and stocking Sabra Hummus, we are supporting a country that stands in direct opposition to international and human rights law.
Our business practices and relationships should be in accordance with our university’s mission and values. I call Webster University to suspend Sabra sales and withdraw from financially supporting a company openly supporting Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.