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Time to Freeze Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Profits in Israel

by MARK HAGE

Most people know that Ben & Jerry’s, headquartered in South Burlington, Vermont, makes premium ice cream and champions “Peace” and “Love.”  What they don’t know is that this iconic leader of the socially responsible business community and supporter of Occupy Wall Street is commercially complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. 

Progressive Except for Palestine

Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission commits it to

…meet human needs and eliminate injustices in our local, national and international communities by integrating these concerns into our day-to-day business activities.

…seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice.

…show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.

Sadly, that Social Mission does not apply to Occupied Palestine at present.  Based on an investigation in 2011, Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine Israel learned that the company is making ice cream in Israel and selling it in Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and is planning to increase the number of scoop shops in Israel. The company and its Israeli licensee also run an ice cream factory near Kiryat Malachi—like virtually all Israeli towns and cities, it’s built on the former lands of a Palestinian village forcibly de-populated in the War of 1948, which culminated with the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians. This horrific crime is what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, the “Catastrophe.”

Today, Israeli trucks distributing Ben & Jerry’s ice cream travel seamlessly from the factory, down the forgotten roads of the Nakba, then on super highways that have systematically eviscerated the “Green Line” (Israel’s 1967 border with the West Bank and East Jerusalem), circumventing military checkpoints and roadblocks that torment Palestinians, to arrive at markets in Jewish settlements entrenched on stolen Palestinian land—places like Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ma’ale Admumim and Mishor Adumim. One of our activists visited markets in these settlements and found Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for sale. With assistance from a Jewish-Israeli compatriot, we also discovered that Jewish settlers can order a party cart with catering services from the factory.

Ending Ben & Jerry’s Complicity with Israel’s Occupation

Ben & Jerry’s is not the most egregious corporate offender in Palestine. But unlike those that are, it has a Social Mission that cannot be reconciled with Israel’s occupation and settlement regime.  On March 14, after nearly two years of unsuccessful engagement with the company, VTJP launched a campaign calling on Ben & Jerry’s to take the following measures until Israel terminates its occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands in compliance with international law:

1. End the marketing, sales and catering of Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel and Jewish-only settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

2. Stop manufacturing ice cream in Israel.

3. Issue a statement calling (a) for an end to Israel’s occupation and settlement enterprise and (b) appealing directly to other socially responsible companies to do likewise and to end business operations in Israel and its illegal settlements.

Since VTJP went public, 3,200 people have signed our petition to Ben & Jerry’s and over 500 have sent an e-mail of protest to its CEO.  The company has refused media interviews and continues to insist, without elaboration, that its franchise’s business in Israel and Occupied Palestine is aligned with its Social Mission.

On April 9, VTJP activists will be leafleting outside Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops on “Free Cone Day” to remind the company that its ice cream may be free on that day, but Palestine is not.  We invite you to join us at a scoop shop of your choice.

Mark Hage lives in Montpelier, Vermont, and is a member of Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (www.vtjp.org).  He can be reached at mhage56@yahoo.com

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