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:
April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail