FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

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:
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail