FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump
Nomi Prins 
Wall Street Wins, Again: Bailouts in the Time of Coronavirus
Dean Baker
Getting to Medicare-for-All, Eventually
Dave Lindorff
Neither Pandemic Nor Economic Collapse is Going to Be a Short-Lived Crisis
Sonali Kolhatkar
Capitalism in America Has Dropped the Mask: Its Face is Cruel and Selfish
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 7 Pro-Contagion Reversals Increase the Coronavirus Toll
David Swanson
A Department of Actual Defense in a Time of Coronavirus
Ellen Brown
Was the Fed Just Nationalized?
Jeff Birkenstein
Postcards From Trump
Nick Licata
Authoritarian Leaders Rejected the Danger of a COVID-19 Pandemic Because It Challenged Their Image
Kathy Kelly
“He’s Got Eight Numbers, Just Like Everybody Else”
Graham Peebles
Change Love and the Need for Unity
Kim C. Domenico
Can We Transform Fear to Strength In A Time of Pandemic?
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Files Lawsuit to Stop Logging and Burning Project in Rocky Mountain Front Inventoried Roadless Area
Stephen Cooper
“The Soul Syndicate members dem, dem are all icons”: an Interview with Tony Chin
Weekend Edition
April 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Omar Shaban
Gaza’s New Conflict: COVID-19
Rob Urie
Work, Crisis and Pandemic
John Whitlow
Slumlord Capitalism v. Global Pandemic
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Strange Things Happening Every Day
Jonathan Cook
The Bigger Picture is Hiding Behind a Virus
Paul Street
Silver Linings Amidst the Capitalist Coronavirus Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Control of Nature
Louis Proyect
COVID-19 and the “Just-in-Time” Supply Chain: Why Hospitals Ran Out of Ventilators and Grocery Stores Ran Out of Toilet Paper
Kathleen Wallace
The Highly Contagious Idea
Kenneth Good
The Apartheid Wars: Non-Accountability and Freedom for Perpetrators.
Andrew Levine
Democracy in America: Sorry, But You Can’t Get There from Here.
Ramzy Baroud
Tunisia Leads the Way: New Report Exposes Israel’s False Democracy
David Rosen
Coronavirus and the State-of-Emergency Pandemic
Matthew Stevenson
Will Trump Cancel the Election? Will the Democrats Dump Joe?
Ron Jacobs
Seattle—Anti-Capitalist Hotbed
Michael T. Klare
Avenger Planet: Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Mother Nature’s Response to Human Transgression?
Jack Rasmus
COVID-19 and the Forgotten Working Class
Werner Lange
The Madness of More Nukes and Less Rights in Pandemic Times
J.P. Linstroth
Why a Race is Not a Virus and a Virus is Not a Race
John Feffer
We Need a Coronavirus Truce
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”: the Ultimate Floating Signifier
Victor Grossman
Corona and What Then?
Katie Fite
Permanent Pandemic on Public Lands: Welfare Sheep Ranchers and Their Enablers Hold the West’s Bighorns Hostage
Patrick Bond
Covid-19 Attacks the Down-and-Out in Ultra-Unequal South Africa
Eve Ottenberg
Capitalism vs. Humanity
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 2: Panic On the Streets of Tehran
Jonas Ecke
Would Dying for the Economy Help Anybody?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail