A report by BDSlist.org
Specialising in dips popular in the Mediterranean region, the Sabra Company is now owned by two independent, global food companies – PepsiCo, based in the US, and Strauss Group, based in Israel. (For Strauss Group’s other brands, see here.)
The term “sabra” is Israeli slang for a Jewish person born in historical Palestine. The term “sabra” also refers to an extensively upgraded M60 Patton military tank developed by Israel Military Industries. The company is a subsidiary of Blue & White Foods, LLC, whose name refers to the colours of the Israeli flag.
Perhaps in the spirit of the original founding member of Strauss being a member of the infamous Haganah militia, Strauss Group boasts of its support of the Israeli military, specifically the two brigades notorious for human rights abuses: Golani and Givati. Until late 2010, Strauss Group stated on its website:
“Our connection with soldiers goes as far back as the country, and even further. We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support, to enhance their quality of life and service conditions, and sweeten their special moments. We have adopted the Golani reconnaissance platoon for over 30 years and provide them with an ongoing variety of food products for their training or missions, and provide personal care packages for each soldier that completes the path. We have also adopted the Southern Shualei Shimshon troops from the Givati platoon with the goal of improving their service conditions and being there at the front to spoil them with our best products.”
“As part of its donations program, the Sales Division of Strauss Israel has made a contribution to the men and women who serve in the Golani brigade. The funds are designated for welfare, cultural and educational activities, such as pocket money for underprivileged soldiers, sports and recreational equipment, care packages, and books and games for the soldiers’ club. Yotvata, our dairy in the south, contributes likewise to the southern Shualei Shimshon unit.”
This move was clearly cosmetic camouflage, however, as its chairperson, Ofra Strauss, subsequently conceded that Strauss Group continued to provide food to soldiers during training and on missions, while noting “For us, Israeli soldiers are not army; Israeli soldiers are our kids.” Strauss sits on the Advisory Board of the Foundation for Former Lone Soldiers (HESEG), an organisation that pays non-Israelis to serve in the Israeli military forces. She is also an Executive Member of the Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency, a Zionist public relations organisation that recruits and financially supports new citizens and soldiers for an exclusively Jewish Israel.
There is little doubt, then, that Strauss Group actively supports this vision of a militarised Zionist enclave. Yet as a successful business, it recognises the importance of selling an image. Today you will not find a mention of Strauss Group’s military support. Instead, you will find the new marketing image, focusing on its support of youth groups, needy families, and female professionals. Showing a smiling, semi-veiled woman, it even highlights a programme called “Partnering with Jasmine,” which is “designed to promote Jewish and Arab businesswomen who run small businesses.” This guise of equitability is rather at odds with the stance of Ofra Strauss’s endeavours at The Jewish Agency. . . leading us to suspect that this “play fair” image is merely a typical illusion crafted to suit “Brand Israel.”
Nonetheless, Sabra’s Israeli born CEO, Ronen Zohar, has dismissed BDS efforts, saying “The protesters make noise, but they make noise to themselves. It doesn’t have any influence on our business.” Sure, both Strauss Group and Sabra still make a fortune in profits. But being in the BDS spotlight has prompted them to downplay their roots in aggressive Zionism. Not only has Strauss rewritten its “community involvement,” for instance, but Sabra’s recent publication “Hummus for Dummies” describes Sabra as “an American company,” failing to mention its relation with the Israeli Strauss Group. In fact, Sabra’s website describes its seemingly wholesome history as being founded “in 1986 in Queens New York as Sabra Blue & White Foods” with the “simple mission of bringing the healthy and delicious cuisine of the Mediterranean to people’s everyday diets.” New York. The Mediterranean. Not Israel. And not exactly that simple. Despite very deep Israeli roots, the Sabra website only mentions Israel once, noting the Strauss Group happens to be headquartered there.
The value of boycotting Sabra products lies in its power to hold Israeli companies accountable for Israel’s egregious violations of human rights and international law. Sabra is just one element of a massive food products corporation. No matter how strong, a boycott of Sabra will barely make a dent in the corporate profits. But that is not the point. The goal of singling out particular products such as Sabra Hummus is to force public scrutiny of Zionist Israel. The ongoing boycott has already prompted the company to mask its identity. That begs the question of why that identity has become so troublesome.