FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Campaign to End Ben & Jerry’s Business with Israeli Settlements

by

In March 13, 2013, Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (VTJP) launched a campaign calling on Ben & Jerry’s, a leader of the socially responsible business community, to stop marketing, catering and selling ice cream in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. We also urged the company to issue a statement expressing its opposition to the occupation and Israel’s settlement enterprise, consistent with the principles of its social mission.

Our demands have not been met, but the campaign is strong and growing.

Free Cone Day, 2014: Your ice cream is free today—Palestine is not!

On April 8—this year’s Free Cone Day at participating Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops—solidarity activists in 12 states (CA, CO, CT, NY, MA, MN, NC, NH, OR, NH, VT, and WA) distributed thousands of leaflets prepared by VTJP on Ben & Jerry’s commercial ties to Israel’s settlement regime.

Additionally, over 350 e-mails were sent to the company’s CEO, Jostein Solheim, on April 8, and in the two weeks leading up to Free Cone Day, more than 500 messages were sent.

Ben & Jerry’s, to be fair, is not a corporate predator in Palestine in the vein of Motorola, Hewlitt Packard, Caterpillar or scores of other companies with ties to Israel’s military and police. Nonetheless, the simple, unsavory fact is that Ben & Jerry’s in Israel, like many other businesses, benefits directly from a political, legal and economic system of military occupation, colonization and racial segregation. The commercial ties between the company’s franchise in Israel and Jewish-only settlements cannot be reconciled with Ben & Jerry’s widely touted “social mission” or its record of supporting human rights and progressive causes.

Jewish settlers, ensconced in fortified settlements on stolen land, commit terrible crimes against Palestinians and mock international law. But when their sweet tooth beckons, they can find Ben & Jerry’s Finest in their supermarket freezers.

On Free Cone Day, activists drove this message home with thousands of Americans, whose tax dollars subsidize Israel’s military and occupation forces to the tune of more than $3 billion annually.

Building & Expanding the Campaign

VTJP organizers have met with company officials on two occasions since 2012 and exchanged correspondence several times. Our campaign went public last year, after two years of research, with a petition to the company. Nearly 4,000 individuals signed it.

Since last September, 220 organizations—from the American Friends Service Committee in the U.S. to BDS South Africa—have signed a letter organized by VTJP that calls on Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling ice cream in Israeli settlements. The international signatories to date are based in 16 countries (including Israel) and in the occupied West Bank. Groups in 31 states across the U.S., plus the District of Columbia, have also endorsed the letter.

There have been reactive stirrings to our efforts inside Ben & Jerry’s as well. The chairperson of the company’s Board of Directors, Jeff Furman, a veteran anti-racism activist, traveled to Palestine in 2012 with a delegation of African-American civil rights leaders. In the wake of that trip, Furman, who is Jewish, bluntly characterized Israel’s rule in the occupied Palestinian territory as “apartheid.”

He later told a reporter that he “believes” catering to the settlements had been stopped after our report on the franchise in Israel highlighted the practice. New information, however, from anti-occupation activists in Israel suggests that the Israeli franchise, operating out of a factory near the city of Kiryat Malachi, is still catering to Jewish settlers. We’ll have more to say on this later.

Last summer, Ben & Jerry’s Chief Financial Officer visited the West Bank while on a short business trip to Israel, and a delegation of corporate officers and Board members traveled there this March on a fact-finding mission. We also learned recently, but have no details yet, that earlier in the year the company invited individuals “from both sides of the conflict” to Vermont to hear their perspectives.

In the year to come, VTJP will intensify the Ben & Jerry’s campaign and our engagement with company officials, and lend support to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) initiatives nationally and internationally.

There is much work that remains to be done.

Mark Hage is a member of Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel, and makes his home in Montpelier, Vermont. You can contact him at icecream@vtjp.org.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Rivera Sun
Blind Slogans and Shallow Greatness
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail