York Regional Police are investigating an incident in which a Sabra hummus product was targeted by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Since Aug. 8, an image of a Sabra hummus tub purchased at the Bathurst Street and Rutherford Road Sobeys in Vaughan, north of Toronto, with a “Boycott Israeli Apartheid” sticker on it has been widely circulated on Facebook.
The store’s assistant manager, who asked not to be named, said he reviewed the outlet’s security tapes and notified police.
“We investigated through our camera system… I sat through our footage… I searched through a 24-hour span,” he said.
He said that since it was just one sticker that was placed on one product, it was hard to determine who the culprit was.
“I was looking for someone who looked like they were doing suspicious behaviour… I wanted to find a face, but I couldn’t.”
York Regional Police Sgt. Kelly Bachoo said the force’s district criminal investigations bureau is working with officers from the diversity, equity and inclusion bureau on the case.
“We currently are investigating the matter… as a mischief. At this point, the investigation is ongoing, and no charges have been laid,” Bachoo said.
Thornhill Conservative MPP Gila Martow said this isn’t something that should be taken lightly.
“Some may say it is just a sticker on a product with an Israeli name… but we must be aware of growing anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias,” Martow said, adding that the area where the store is located has the fastest-growing Jewish community outside of Israel.
StandWithUs Canada executive director Meryle Kates said when she learned about the incident, she encouraged members of the community to show their support by going to Sobeys to buy all it’s Sabra stock.
“I private messaged everybody that had posted the image [on Facebook] to go out and buy as much of the product as they could,” Kates said, adding that StandwithUs, a pro-Israel advocacy group, has a program called Buy Israeli Goods (BIG) to counter the BDS movement.
“It works really well, and I think this is the way to attack it.”
But “someone should let the BDS activists know that Sabra hummus is not produced in Israel,” Kates added.
Kates said that when the community buys a product targeted by the BDS campaign, it sends a message to activists “that we will do this in every case.”
She said the fact that the activists chose the location at Bathurst and Rutherford, in an area of Vaughan that is highly populated by Jews and Israelis, suggests that “they weren’t trying to send a message to their community – they were trying to get to ours. I don’t want to let them antagonize us.”
It is for this reason that Kates didn’t want to share the image of the Sabra tub on Facebook.
“We don’t want to promote their hatred by sharing their image with that sticker. That sticker has been used all over the U.S., all over Europe… I don’t want to see it on Facebook. I don’t see that we should be helping them spread their message,” she said.
“They were obviously looking for a Jewish platform, and I have always had the philosophy that I’m not going to give them our platform. They want to get to us.”