Vermonters for Justice in Palestine Ended its Boycott against Ben & Jerry’s
This Archive page documents how the campaign against Ben & Jerry’s business in Israel and its illegal settlements proceeded from 2013 to 2022.
It includes postings and information prior to January 2023.
Very few details, but Avi Zinger thinks he’s the winner
Media Reports (all very similar):
The Guardian; MSN from Reuters; MSN again; Jewish Telegraphic Agency
A Commentary by Ali Abinimah in the Electonic Intifada points out that the comments from Ben & Jerry’s and Zinger about the secret settlement tell us very little and raise several unanswered questions.
Maybe the most telling (damning?) is a quote from Zinger: “I look forward to continuing to produce and sell the great tasting Ben & Jerry’s ice cream under the Hebrew and Arabic trademarks throughout Israel and the West Bank long into the future.”
Meanwhile, worth keeping an eye on the Israeli company’s Web page and Facebook that still have the Roman text Ben & Jerry’s, though just about everything else is Hebrew. (No sign of any Arabic script there). The graphics – including Woody Jackson’s art are still there, and the names of the Ben & Jerry’s flavors are in Roman script.
A statement by Adalah Justice Project, Jewish Voice for Peace, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and BDSMovement shows Ben & Jerry’s map of the world with Israel now omitted.
New branding of Ben & Jerry’s Israel
Much of it using Hebrew script; but the Woody Jackson cow and other VT-based graphics remain.
No sign of any Arabic script yet at Facebook and website:
But sue Unilever to stop the sale
Israeli franchise owner Avi Zinger (as American Quality Products) is now the owner – with blessing of Unilever
VTJP Press statement here
(Initial statement from VTJP revised June 30th 2022 to reflect this tweet from @benandjerrys)
Unilever is clearly overrun with the worst kind of Zionist sentiment.
From cnbc.com Zinger said “this is the best thing that I could have dreamed for me and my employees.”
and From Jerusalem Post
“Earlier this month, activist investor Nelson Peltz joined Unilever’s board after his investment firm Trian Fund Management LP bought a 1.5% share in the company. Peltz is a philanthropist and the honorary co-chairman of the board of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which put Unilever on its top-10 list of worst antisemitism around the world for 2021, after Ben & Jerry’s announced it would no longer sell ice cream in settlements.”
Commentary and insights
Interview with former Ben & Jerry’s board chairperson Jeff Furnam – by Alex Kane, Jewish Currents, July 26, 2022
Israel, BDS and the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream wars
Perspective by Richard Silverstein in AlAraby.co.uk 07 Jul, 2022.
Analysis: Ben & Jerry’s Unilever fight shows risks of ceding control. By Richa Naidu and Ross Kerber, Reuters 16-August-2022.
Reports about Unilever Statement of June 29th 2022:
Israel’s claim it defeated BDS is hollow Electronic Intifada
Electronic Intifada About General Mills and Pillsbury
From Vermont Digger
From The Forward This is a win for the settlers.
Israel: Ben & Jerry’s will resume sales in illegal settlements, reversing boycott. Ice cream brand will operate in occupied West Bank under a new arrangement, following lawsuit by Israeli licensee. Middle East Eye, By MEE staff, 29 June 2022.
It seems that the only real change is that the name/logo ‘Ben & Jerry’s’ will be transliterated into Hebrew and Arabic (so they can export to friendly countries?)
Reports about Ben & Jerry’s suing Unilever:
Ben & Jerry’s repudiates Israeli ice cream sold under its name. Electronic Intifada. by Ali Abunimah Activism and BDS Beat. 16 November 2022.
Ben & Jerry’s sues parent Unilever to block sale of Israeli business By Jonathan Stempel and Jessica DiNapol, for Reuters, July 6, 2022.
Ben & Jerry’s sues Unilever to block sale of Israeli business Al Jazeera, 5 Jul 2022.
Meet the Israeli Who Wants to Rename Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ‘Judea and Samaria’ Haaretz, by Adi Dovrat-Meseritz, July 6, 2022.
Ben & Jerry’s sues parent company to freeze Israel sale Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, 5 July 2022.
Ben & Jerry’s sues parent company to freeze Israel sale Ali Abunimah, Mondoweiss, 5 July 2022.
Ben & Jerry’s owner Unilever admits it melted under Israel’s threats. Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah, 29 July 2022.
Ben & Jerry’s, Unilever Talks Over West Bank Dispute Break Down. Reuters (via Haaretz) Jul 31, 2022.
Ben & Jerry’s says Unilever froze directors’ salaries over Israel CNN (via Reuters). August 3, 2022
US court rejects Ben & Jerry’s push to block sales in West Bank Judge says the company did not show sales of its ice cream in occupied Palestinian territories caused ‘irreparable harm’. Al Jazeera, 22 Aug 2022.
Ben & Jerry’s loses bid to halt sales in Israel’s West Bank Ben & Jerry’s sued Unilever on July 5, saying the sale of its Israeli business to local licensee Avi Zinger violated their agreement. Jerusalem Post, vie Reuters, Accessed August 23, 2022.
Ben & Jerry’s Co-Founders Claim Unilever Violated Acquisition Agreement With Sale to Local Licensee in Israel. The Algemeiner, by Shiryn Ghermezian, September 19, 2022.
Boycotting Israeli products
– Israeli ice cream maker sues Ben & Jerry’s over boycott.For NY Post – By Carl Campanile – March 3, 2022
– Ben & Jerry’s ‘woke’ posturing on Israel ‘melts parent company profits’ claim campaigners UK-based multinational Unilever has lost £15bn in stock market value since July 2021. Jonathan Sacerdoti for The Jewish Chronicle – February 10, 2022 15:33
– Unilever can’t side-step country’s anti-boycott law – Israeli Ben & Jerry’s ‘There is no legal possibility to continue selling in Israel without selling in Judea and Samaria’ By Tovah Lazaroff for The Jerusalem Post Israel News – February 13, 2022.
– Iowa governor signs bill targeting Ben & Jerry’s over Israel, adopts controversial antisemitism definition in state Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has signed legislation to expand the state’s anti-BDS law, and adopt the controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism. By Michael Arria for Mondoweiss – March 25, 2022.
– Ben & Jerry’s Israel CEO Says ‘I Refuse to Boycott My Neighbors,’ Calls Out Unilever ‘Hypocrisy’. by Shiryn Ghermezian for The Algemeiner.
– Ben & Jerry’s stops making ice cream in Israel. Its Israeli manufacturer is suing.CNN Business – by Jordan Valinsky – March 3, 2022
(Selling their ice cream in illegal settlements).
Despite assurance in July 19th 2021 that they would stop.
On July 19th,2021 Ben & Jerry’s announced:
Ben & Jerry’s Will End Sales of Our Ice Cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
But apparently nothing has changed.
Freezer in Shufersal store in illegal settlement Pisgat Ze’ev – Oct. 7, 2021.
Packed with Ben & Jerry’s icecream.
The delivery trucks keep rolling – July 2021.
In 2017, containers of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream were seen at the Shufersal Store in Pisgat Zeev.
In 2018, a video showed B&J ice cream freezers in the Israeli illegal West Bank settlement of Tekoa, near Hebron and Bethlehem. Tekoa is built on 1071 dunams of land which Israel confiscated from the Palestinian citizens of Tuqu’.
The Shufersal stores in West Bank settlements are shown here in the map at (hover over icons to get details).
The Pisgat Zeev settlement is 35 miles from the factory.
VTJP statement about the July 19th 2021 announcement from Ben & Jerry’s here
Combined Statement (August 12th, 2021) “Where We Stand on Ben & Jerry’s” by Adalah Justice Project, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, Palestine Legal, American Friends Service Committee, BDS Movement, Jewish Voice for Peace.
(Work in Progress) here
And can’t they do better than this? Extremist Zionists make wild accusations of anti-Semitism and terrorism, instead of confronting the real issues: Samples: here and here and here
Pressure Ben & Jerry’s to hold fast to their commitment to stop sales of ice cream from their Israeli franchise in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, transported on Jewish-only roads, on trucks with Jewish-only license plates, passing easily through military checkpoints that bedevil others. Then end all their business in Israel by ending the contract with their Israeli licensee in compliance with their social mission.
Since 2013, thousands of individuals and nearly 250 organizations in 20 countries have called on Ben & Jerry’s to stop sales to Israeli illegal settlements and to publicly oppose Israel’s occupation and settlements.
An Instagram posting by Decolonize Burlington promoting the boycott of Ben & Jerry’s received thousands of ‘likes’, and prompted this coverage in the Burlington Free Press.
A new Press Release by VTJP about Ben & Jerry’s complicity in Israeli Apartheid sent to local and national news outlets.
In response to a new Petition drive about Ben & Jerry’s business in Palestine/Israel 614 people have sent emails to CEO Matthew McCarthy, and Global Social Mission Officer Dave Rapaport, and 204 people signed at the Rally/March in Burlington, May 15th 2021. See the letter to Ben & Jerry’s here.
Remember Apartheid? (South Africa, 1990)
It’s Back! (Palestine now)
present-day reality is that Israel is the sole governing power throughout most of those areas and that in the remainder it exercises primary authority alongside limited Palestinian self-rule.
This comes shortly after the statement from the Israel human rights group B’Tselem
“A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is Apartheid”.Previously (January 2016) Human Rights Watch published a
report:”Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights” documenting how businesses operating in the settlements profit from the oppression of the Palestinian people and normalize Israel’s colonization project.Also, (February 2020), the United Nations Human Rights Office published a database of businesses that have been profiting from Israel’s illegal annexation and settlement activity in the West Bank. One of them is the Israeli Supermarket chain Shufersal that sells “Peace and Love” Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israeli-Jewish settlements.Ben & Jerry’s has supported Israeli colonialism through sales of its ice cream in Shufersal supermarkets in illegal settlements.
More details here
Ruins of Qastina.
This was VTJP’s contribution to the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
A petition to amplify our messaging to Ben & Jerry’s by focusing on their factory built over the site of the (1948) demolished village of Qastina.
Article by Azad Essa in Middle East Eye (June 2020) about Ben & Jerry’s recent statement ‘Silence is not an Option’ emphasizing that the statement is inconsistent with their actions in Palestine.
Notable that “In a response to queries from MEE, Sean Greenwood, director of Ben & Jerry’s media team, referred to the company’s 2015 statement, adding that the company had nothing more to add at this point.”
“ We have to stand together with the victims of murder, marginalization, and repression … the predictable consequence of a racist and prejudiced system and culture.
We must embark on the more complicated work of delivering justice for all the victims of state sponsored violence and racism.
We can’t continue to fund a criminal justice system that perpetuates mass incarceration while at the same time threatens the lives of a whole segment of the population.”As explained here and here, about 100 Minnesota law enforcement officers attended a counter-terrorism training conference in Minneapolis put on by the Israeli consulate in Chicago, the FBI and Minnetonka police in 2012.There they learned the violent techniques that Israeli forces have been seen to use as they terrorize people in the occupied Palestinian territories under the guise of security operations.(Two University of Vermont Police chiefs have also participated in such training in Israel).That Ben & Jerry’s can’t hear the contradiction, or more likely, REFUSE to hear the contradiction with their operations in Israel and Palestine.Not the first time – in October 2016 Ben & Jerry’s served up a humble statement of support for Black Lives Matter, while remaining silent about their support of the systematic oppression of Palestinian people by having ice cream from their factory in Israel sold in illegal Jewish-only settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territories.
Ben & Jerry’s can’t call itself progressive and remain silent on Palestine.
Our appeals to Ben & Jerry’s socially responsible image had no effect.
Therefore, a boycott. Click here for a full explanation.
-> Publicly endorse the boycott and let us know that you did so. Send a pro-boycott e-mail to Matthew McCarthy, Ben & Jerry’s CEO.
-> Tell local scoop shop owners, you are boycotting. Urge them to pressure Ben & Jerry’s about its complicity with Israel’s occupation.
-> Ask local supermarkets and food co-ops to remove Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from their shelves.
-> Have your organization endorse our organizational letter, and not have free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at its events.
-> Stay informed of campaign developments. Tell your friends through social media, and “like” us on Facebook.
Link to the VTJP campaign on your website.
“that profit from Israel’s illegal annexation and settlement activity in the West Bank”
(UN Human Rights Report)
After lengthy delays, the United Nations Human Rights Office finally published a database of businesses that have been profiting from Israel’s illegal annexation and settlement activity in the West Bank. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, announced here that 112 major companies had been identified as operating in Israeli settlements in ways that violate human rights.
The UN ‘Advance Unedited Version‘ of the report (12 February 2020) lists those companies.
One of them is the Israeli Supermarket chain Shufersal that sells “Peace and Love” Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israeli-Jewish settlements.
The UN Human Rights Commission lists nine criteria (listed activities) compiled by the fact-finding mission for inclusion in the report; Shufersal came under activities (e) and (g), where
Activity (e) is the provision of services and utilities supporting the maintenance and existence of settlements, including transport;
Activity (g) is the use of natural resources, in particular water and land, for business purposes;
There is an unholy alliance between Ben & Jerry’s, their corporate owner Unilever, and the supermarket chain
Shufersal. The Ben & Jerry’s franchise in Israel makes ice cream using the recipes, branding, and images provided by Ben & Jerry’s in Vemont to profit from Shufersal’s sales in Israel’s illegal settlements. Details here and here
About Social Responsibility they state: Shufersal has fully adopted the values of corporate social responsibility (CSR) vis-à-vis all its stakeholders: customers, suppliers, employees, the community, and the environment.
The company has 238 supermarket branches. In addition, it engages in income-generating real estate, leasing commercial centers and other properties. It has branches in Mishor Adumim, which is the industrial zone of the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and in the settlement of Ariel, as well as in Gilo, which is an Israeli settlement neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem. The company’s sub-chain, Yesh Supermarkets, has branches in additional West Bank settlements including Modi’in Illit, Ariel, Bithar Illit and in Ramat Eshkol, which is an Israeli settlement neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem.
The one-state map of historic Palestine (where is that Green Line?) displayed by Shufersal shows their stores throughout Israel and the Occupied West Bank, as if Palestine and Palestinians do not exist, only a Jewish State exists between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
Products manufactured in West Bank settlements are marketed under the brand name Shufersal. For example, in May 2015, they launched a line of branded milk, cream, chocolate and cheese from milk produced in the Occupied Golan, by Ramat Hagolan Dairies.
(Adapted from https://whoprofits.org/company/shufersal) also see https://icecream.vtjp.org/settlements
More details here
No way to treat a child
More than 6,000 unarmed demonstrators were shot by military snipers at designated protest sites over nine months.
UN human rights experts have said that Israeli soldiers may have committed war crimes while responding to Palestinian protests on the Gaza border last year. Thirty-five of the fatalities were children, while three were clearly marked paramedics, and two were clearly marked journalists, the commission found.
At the end of February 2019, 205 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners, including 2 administrative detainees.
This according to B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.
Meanwhile, back at the barracks, these Israeli soldiers celebrate with “Peace and Love” Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
The ice cream is made at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Israel, delivered to the soldiers and trucked to illegal settlements in the West Bank.
From left to right: Graning, Zimmerman, McCarthy,(unknown), Zinger, AlJabari and al Husseini
What were they thinking?
In July 2019, Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy, CFO Michael Graning, and Avi Zinger (Ben & Jerry’s Israel) were photographed in Israel with
the Judea Samaria Chamber of Commerce (JSC) Chairman Avi Zimmerman (who is also Executive Director of the American Friends of Ariel, a
city-sized Israeli settlement in Palestine), Ashraf R AlJabari (co-founder of JSC) and Haldun al Husseini (who together with AlJabari helped launch the Palestinian Reform and Development Party).
“Judea Samaria” is the Israeli-Zionist name for the West Bank – implying that it is part of the supposed territory granted exclusively to Jewish people by divine proclamation. The photo was posted on the JSC website, though subsequently deleted. The accompanying text pointed to future collaboration.
Outraged by this retrograde action, VTJP contacted the Ben & Jerry’s CEO requesting explanation with our letter copied to the Board of Directors. In response, we were informed that the photo was taken in July on a ‘non-public trip’ to the region by Board and management members, and contrary to an agreed policy not to take or publish photos. However, this carefully posed and staged photo was taken at an “event”, not a “meeting”, implying that policy or future collaboration were not discussed.
On Free Cone Day (April 2020)
Send a message to Ben & Jerry’s:
“Stop your complicity in the Illegal Occupation of Palestine!”
“Ice Cream is Free, but Palestinian People are not!“
They’re still at it – Again – selling in illegal settlements
Another Update (See previous update here)
A recent video shows a clear shot of B&J ice cream freezers in the Israeli illegal West Bank settlement of Tekoa, located near Hebron and Bethlehem and next to the Palestinian village of Tuqu’. Tekoa (3,750 population in 2017) is built on 1071 dunams of land which Israel confiscated from the Palestinian citizens of Tuqu’
The video “Natural Born Settlers” is by Iris Zaki, an Israeli filmmaker. She wrote I’d never understood the Israeli settlers. So I moved in with them. So I decided to move from my home in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv to the settlement of Tekoa in the West Bank for a summer.
The video is part of a series by independent filmmakers in the New York Times, supported by the Pulitzer Center.
(Click on images to enlarge)
Protesters challenge Ben & Jerry’s at World Village Festival (Finland)
demonstrated at their stand during this time. Subsequently the company suggested a phone call with their European Social Mission Strategy Manager and some of their US people.
Their position was they don’t know how much of the Israeli licensee’s business in the settlements, which is very small, and anyway countered by the good they are doing in the region by contributing to various projects and buying from Palestinian farmers.
The protest was organized by The Left Youth of Finland and by ICAHD Finland – The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions who provided the photos.
VTJP Urges Unilever to Stop the Sale of Ben& Jerry’s Ice Cream in Occupied Palestine
In April, and again in May 2018, VTJP wrote to the executive management team of Unilever in the Netherlands. Ben & Jerry’s is a subsidiary of Unilever, a British-Dutch conglomerate which bought the Vermont company in 2001.
The first letter urged the company “to intervene immediately and decisively, as Ben & Jerry’s parent company, to put a stop to your U.S. subsidiary’s commerce conducted by its Israeli franchise in Israel’s illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
The letter charted the history of Ben & Jerry’s complicity with Israel’s occupation and settlement regime, in violation of international law, and VTJP’s efforts to put an end to it since 2011. It also noted the allegation VTJP made in 2014, based on information from Israeli activists, that Ben & Jerry’s franchise in Israel purchases equipment from an illegal settlement in the occupied Golan Heights of Syria.
Unilever did not respond to the letter, but, directed, we believe, Jostein Solheim to do so. He is Ben & Jerry’s CEO in South Burlington, Vermont.
Mr. Solheim sent VTJP a letter dated May 4th 2018. It spun Ben & Jerry’s complicity with Israel’s military occupation and settlements as a form of “economic cooperation” and “engagement” designed to “resolve conflicts,” promote “social equity,” and help “marginalized peoples.” It also attempted to justify the company’s commerce in occupied Palestine on the basis of protocols signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1994 (which are part of the failed and discredited Oslo Accords.)
Once again, Mr. Solheim did not make a single reference to the occupation or Israel’s settlements – an omission more striking than normal given that it came during the period of massive protests in Gaza (The Great March of Return) and the slaughter and maiming of nonviolent protesters by Israeli snipers.
VTJP rebutted Solheim’s points in its second letter to Unilever in May, and expressed again its desire to engage Unilever directly. We have yet to receive a response to the second letter (July 2018).
Free Cone Day Action – Tuesday, April 10th 2018
On Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day
Ice Cream is Free
but Palestinian People are not Free!
This year (2018) hundreds of people sent emails to the Ben & Jerry’s Management, Board and Founders about sales of their ice cream in illegal Jewish-only settlements in occupied Palestine, and their failure to live up to their declared Social Mission. Others left phone messages for the company’s Global Director of Social Mission. And people handed out leaflets at scoop shops for those in line for their free ice cream.
The message to Ben & Jerry’s: “Stop your complicity in the Illegal Occupation of Palestine!”
They’re still at it – selling in illegal settlements
Update – In December 2017 these containers of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream were photographed by an Israeli citizen at the Shufersal Store at Moshe Dayan Street in the illegal settlement of Pisgat Zeev.
Note that this Shufersal store displays a map of their store locations that show Palestine and Israel as all one country.
(Click on images to enlarge)
June 23rd 2017: Release arrested Vermont dairy workers!
Wafic spoke on behalf of refugees, migrants and exploited workers everywhere at the Migrant Justice rally at the State House in Montpelier, demanding the release of two organizers of the Milk with Dignity march to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury arrested five days previously, (see 7-Days Report).
June 17th 2017: ICE arrests Vermont dairy workers after March for Dignity
VTJP joined hundreds marching from Montpelier to the Ben & Jerry’s factory supporting the demand of Migrant Justice: the Company ” must ensure farmworkers’ rights are respected in their supply chain by joining the Milk with Dignity Program, without further delay, as promised 2 years ago!” Ominously, shortly after the March, border agents arrested two of the organizers, 7-Days Report.
Nordic Social Mission manager challenged about war crimes in occupied Palestine
At the World Village Festival in Helsinki, Finland’s biggest multicultural event, Ben & Jerry’s was one of the sponsors. They had a panel on May 27th 2017 on social responsibility, and the Ben & Jerry’s person in the ‘hot seat’ Soledad Piñero Misa (the new Nordic Social Mission manager) was challenged by a sign reading “Ben & Jerry’s: – Stop Selling in Illegal Israeli settlements” and asked why do they profit from war crimes and when will they stop? She explained that she’s only been on the job a few weeks and doesn’t know about the Palestine connection, but will look into it.
Bonanza for Sales of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream to 2500 More Homes in Illegal Settlements
Even more Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will now be sold in illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank as the Netanyahu-Trump collaborative plans 2500 more residential homes for construction in illegal settlements. This was reported on January 24th 2017 by the Guardian newspaper and the BBC. This is in addition to plans for additional construction in East Jerusalem to consolidate its annexation. At the same time there is a huge increase in demolitions of Palestinian homes by the Israeli occupation. Profits will trump “Peace and Love” again.
Submission to the U.N. Human Rights Council about Ben & Jerry’s involvement in settlements
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is implementing the mandate arising from a resolution adopted by the council on March 24, 2016, entitled Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.This office of the U.N. is mandated to report to the Council on implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to produce a database of all business enterprises involved in activities having implications for those rights.
We have requested that Ben & Jerry’s and its franchise in Israel be added to the database.
The UN Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.
Ben & Jerry’s: Why do Palestinian Lives not Matter to You?
We commend Ben & Jerry’s for taking the brave step of aligning the company with the Black Lives Matter movement in a statement posted October 6th 2016. But the company continues to miss opportunities to take specific actions to show that it respects the lives of Palestinian refugees and Palestinians living under occupation.
Many activists in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement identify their struggle with the struggle for human rights of Palestinians who are denied basic freedoms by the Israeli occupation (When I see them I see us). Ben & Jerry’s statement says “we have a moral obligation to take a stand now for justice and for Black lives.” And yet by failing to speak out against the occupation they have shown little interest in justice for Palestinians. The company continues to sell ice cream in illegal Jewish-only settlements and to send ice cream treats to Israeli soldiers of the occupation forces.
Ben & Jerry’s statement says “All lives do matter. But all lives will not matter until Black lives matter.” As the Black Lives Matter movement has made perfectly clear, all lives include oppressed Palestinians as well as oppressed people of color in the US.
The statement continues: “We’ve come to understand that to be silent about the violence and threats to the lives and well-being of Black people is to be complicit in that violence and those threats.” That’s what we’ve been saying to Ben & Jerry’s for 4 years now – that to be silent about the occupation of Palestine, which daily humiliates and brutalizes 4 million Palestinians, is to be complicit in the crimes committed by Israel’s government and occupation forces.
Ben & Jerry’s could take immediate constructive steps by speaking out against the occupation and by stopping sales of their ice cream in the settlements. But Palestinians’ lives apparently do not matter enough.
Ben & Jerry’s Business in Israeli Settlements Brings Divestment Pressure on Parent Company Unilever
Ben & Jerry’s refusal to stop the sale of its ice cream in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in Occupied Palestine is having repercussions for Unilever, its parent company.
The British organization Embrace the Middle East
has sold its holdings in Unilever, because its subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s, markets and sells ice cream in Israeli settlements. This according to Jeremy Moodey in an article titled “UK anti-boycott rules: 5 reasons why they are undemocratic and wrong” in the publication “Christian Today”. Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever should both take note.
In an article in the Guardian newspaper, Unilever CEO Paul Polman was quoted as saying “There are many people now that don’t want to invest in companies that create a worse future for their grandchildren.”
Unilever is an Anglo-Dutch multinational consumer goods company co-headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and London, UK.
Ben & Jerry’s Apartheid Wall
Israel has its infamous apartheid wall, but humans, too, build walls — internally. Jeff Furman, the chair of Ben & Jerry’s board of directors, is a case in point.
Recently VTJP wrote a letter to Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors Chair, Jeff Furman, a long-time civil rights activist and progressive voice in support of Palestinian rights. We asked him and Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim to publicly condemn the ominous targeting of Israeli Palestinian BDS co-founder Omar Bargouti by the Israeli Minister of Intelligence for “targeted civil thwarting”. In this interview, the Minister makes accusations against Mr. Bargouti, insinuating that he and other BDS activists have ties to terrorist organisations, without giving any evidence. When we received no response from either Mr. Furman or Mr. Solheim we called on our supporters to personally email them requesting appropriate action. Over 100 individuals wrote personal (not ‘form’) emails.
Mr. Furman did respond, but only as an individual not as an official (Chairman of the Board of Directors) of Ben & Jerry’s. It is convenient to hide behind the powerlessness of one’s individual’s voice, to wring one’s hands in anguish that Omar Bargouti’s life has been threatened by Israeli officials, and to sign an online petition in his support as an example of the only thing that one can do. But this is the essence of PEP, Progressive Except for Palestine, and the stand that Ben and Jerry’s, the Vermont-based company takes. They and Mr. Furman have built their own convenient wall to stand behind, denying the fact that their existence in Israel and their ice cream sales within the illegal Jewish settlements contributes to the normalisation of the egregious oppression of the Palestinian people.
Mr. Furman to his credit has personally met with Mr. Bargouti and is in a position to do much more than sign an email petition on Mr. Bargouti’s behalf. As Chairman of the BOD he could come out from behind his self-made Apartheid wall and take the public stand, that Israel’s latest wrong against non-violent resistant must be sanctioned publicly.
Free Cone Day 2016 Report
Every year, Ben & Jerry’s serves ‘free’ cones at scoop shops. “Your Ice Cream is Free, but Palestinians are Not! “. This year it was on April 11th 2016 and, as in the previous 3 years, volunteers took advantage of this opportunity to hand out leaflets to people waiting in line, and to talk about Ben & Jerry’s complicity in the illegal and immoral occupation and colonization of Palestine. This year over 2500 leaflets were handed out in ten cities in eight US States, as well as in Montréal Québec.
See the full report here.
Targeted Killing of BDS People
On April 6 2016, we wrote a letter to Ben & Jerry’s calling on the ” Peace and Love” company to condemn recent threats by Israeli officials against Omar Barghouti and other Palestinian BDS activists.
The Israeli Minister of Transportation, Intelligence and Atomic energy, Yisrael Katz, had said that Israel must carry out a “targeted civil thwarting of the BDS leadership,” naming Omar Barghouti and other activists. (“Targeted thwarting” is an Israeli military term for “assassination”). Additionally, according to Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the revocation of Mr. Barghouti’s permanent residency status in Israel is being contemplated in retaliation for his BDS organizing.
Our letter requested Ben & Jerry’s to “issue a strong public statement condemning the recent attacks against Omar Barghouti and other BDS activists, and demanding that the government of Israel put a stop to them immediately and take all necessary measures to protect the lives of these activists and to defend their human and civil rights.”
VASSAR Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Calls Out Ben & Jerry’s in Passing BDS Resolution
On March 6th 2016, the Vassar Student Association (VSA) voted to endorse the Palestinian-led international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in support of Palestinian rights and an end to Israeli human rights abuses. The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) BDS resolution was passed by a vote of 15 in favor and 7 opposed.
VTJP wrote expressed its deep gratitude to Vassar SJP for including Ben & Jerry’s in the resolution because of its Israeli franchise’s commercial complicity with illegal, Jewish-only settlements. The other listed companies listed are: the Strauss Group, the Osem Group, Hewlett-Packard Company, Ahava, General Electric, Eden Springs, Motorola, Caterpillar, G4S, and Elbit Systems.
A bylaw amendment that would have prevented VSA funds from being spent on products listed in the resolution did not secure the needed 2/3 majority to be adopted; it failed by a vote of 12 in favor to 10 opposed. Considerable pressure was brought to bear on VSA by the college’s Board of Trustees and senior-level administrators. They told student leaders that if the bylaw amendment passed the administration would assume control over the VSA’s $900,000 activities budget.
Vassar’s BDS activists protested these threats as “a coercive tactic and represent a clear betrayal of the principle of shared governance between students and administrators central to the VSA and the functioning of the College more broadly.”
Human Rights Watch has just released (January 2016) a damning report:
How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights
The report makes three major recommendations to businesses active in Israeli settlements:
– Cease activities carried out inside settlements;
– Avoid financing, administering or otherwise supporting settlements or settlement related activities and infrastructure, to ensure the businesses are not indirectly contributing to and benefiting from such activities;
– Conduct human rights due diligence.
The report documents in over 100 pages how almost immediately after Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank in 1967 the Israeli government began establishing settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
From the outset, private businesses have been involved in Israel’s settlement policies,
benefiting from and contributing to them.
The report details the ways in which Israeli and international businesses have helped to build, finance, service, and market settlement communities. Businesses are drawn to settlements by low rents, favorable tax rates, government subsidies, and access to cheap Palestinian labor.
It’s clearer than ever how Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sold in illegal settlements supports Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights.
Will they act now?
Email Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim and demand an explanation.
Art Hop 2015 in Burlington,VT.
This year the Art Hop – weekend of September 11-13, 2015 – included a powerful ‘comic strip’ installation with artwork by Michelle Sayles in collaboration with Jen Berger. A series of 8 panels tells one woman’s story of military occupation and oppression over 8 decades. The Ben & Jerry’s ‘free’ ice cream truck was located across the street from the ‘comic strip’ art installation. Many people were visibly moved by the art installation and the story it tells.
Our action also included a performance of the Cantastoria about Ben & Jerry’s in Palestine for the people waiting in line for ‘free’ ice cream (performance by Mark Hage). Leaflets about Ben & Jerry’s in occupied Palestine were handed out to people viewing the art, and those waiting for ‘free’ ice cream cones. Many people were visibly moved by the art installation and the story it tells.
The South End Art Hop attracts over 30,000 visitors to artist’s studios and local businesses that become exhibition sites for the more than 500 participating artists.
Re-Directing Mis-Direction – Ben & Jerry’s Tries to Defend the Indefensible
On April 10th 2015, just before this year’s 3rd annual Free Cone Day protests at Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops, the company posted this statement on its website. Here is the full text of our response.
As in previous statements, this one deliberately sidesteps Ben & Jerry’s responsibility for its Israeli franchise’s selling ice cream in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, and does not even mention the settlements or the use of Jewish-only roads to transport the company’s products.
Ben & Jerry’s assures us it is “keenly aware of how complex the situation can be”. The “situation” is not complex. This is a military occupation and a criminal enterprise of settler-colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, now in its 49th year.
Members of the Company management and Board of Directors delegation who visited the region are not unobservant or unethical people. They are aware of international law and they know that Israel’s occupation will never be terminated, or substantially mitigated, by company-funded efforts at “cross-cultural understanding” or “sourcing from local Fair Trade farmers.”
This latest statement is a clear case of “misdirection” It deflects attention from the company’s “values-based” social mission and from of what is really going on in Occupied Palestine. It also confirms our decision to organize a boycott of the company.
Center for Constitutional Rights defends criticism of Israel
The Center for Constitutional Rights released findings (on May 18th, 2015) regarding the increasing use of accusations of anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses to suppress speech critical of Israeli policy. 60 incidents were documented in the first 4 months of 2015 involving accusations of anti-Semitism made against students or faculty and 24 incidents involving accusations that students or faculty were “terrorists” or “supporters of terrorism,” based solely on speech critical of Israeli policy. This violates the free speech rights of students and scholars and undercuts the university as a place of debate and critical thinking, while also detracting from the fight against true anti-Semitism. The same day, Jewish Voice for Peace delivered a letter signed by over 250 academics to the U.S. State Department, asking it to revise its definition of anti-Semitism to prevent this charge being misused to silence critics of Israel.
Free Cone Day Actions – April 14th 2015
For the third consecutive year, volunteers engaged with people waiting in line at Ben & Jerry’s “Free Cone Day ” and handed out leaflets.
Here’s a report of actions at 18 scoop shop locations in 7 different States. Thousands of leaflets were distributed, and many people in line were surprised to learn about the occupation and our campaign and eager to find out more. This event is an ideal opportunity to let people know about the illegal occupation of Palestine and the oppression of Palestinians, and the illegal Jewish-only settlements where Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is being sold, thus helping to ‘normalize’ the occupation.
And here is a link to the Cantastoria, performed for waiting Free Cone devotees at the ‘Flagship’ Scoop Shop in Burlington, VT.