From left to right: Graning, Zimmerman, McCarthy,(unknown), Zinger, AlJabari and al Husseini
In August 2019, Ben & Jerry's CEO Matthew McCarthy, CFO Michael Graning, and Avi Zinger (Ben & Jerry's Israel) met 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).
From the JSC Facebook page: We enjoyed the thoughtful discussion about how [Ben & Jerry's] can partner to generate economic and social impact for Palestinians and Israelis.
This requires explanation! Why are Ben & Jerry’s CEO and CFO, stewards of arguably the most iconic social mission in corporate America, now posing with Mr. Zimmerman, an Israeli business leader who, by choice and conviction, lives on stolen Palestinian land, drinks water diverted from Palestinian homes and farms, and is shielded from moral and legal accountability by the Israeli government and its military? Why are they "thoughtfully" discussing opportunities for future collaboration with this person and his associates?
This was the second year's protest at this event in Finland in June 2018 (that draws 70,000-80,000 people). After the 2017 event the protesters tried without success to talk with Ben & Jerry's about ice cream sales in the settlements. So they demonstrated again this year. Ben & Jerry's was one of the most visible sponsors of the event and for one hour they were handing out free ice cream. People 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
A professor of Arabic in England has challenged The Fairtrade Foundation over their enthusiastic support for Free Cone Day, requesting that the Fairtrade Foundation, while praising Ben & Jerry for its use of fair-trade ingredients, should also note in all statements regarding Ben & Jerry that they allow their ice cream to be sold in Israel's illegal West Bank (incl. East Jerusalem) settlements, which is a matter of serious moral and legal concern.
He considers that the intention of Israel's illegal settlements is ultimately to effect, by stealth, a further massive ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. ... and wrote: "This is diametrically opposed to the principles and ideals of fair-trade."
The Dutch organization DocP | Diensten en Onderzoek Centrum Palestina [Center for Service and Research on Palestine] based in Rotterdam has featured our campaign at its website [Article is in Dutch].
Allard de Rooi wrote: "I want to just let you know that we have picked up on your excellent campaign here in the Netherlands. Hopefully we'll be able to put pressure on Ben & Jerry's, and inspire others to do so as well."
This is particularly significant as the Netherlands is home to both Unilever (the parent company of Ben & Jerry's), and a large Ben & Jerry's factory serving Europe at Hellendoorn.
Here’s another way to make a statement. You can draw a crowd with creative artwork and one or two (or more) performers who use the time-proven technique of the Cantastoria. Then hand out leaflets to the audience now curious to find out more. This VTJP cantastoria was filmed in preparation for the April 14th Free Cone Day in Burlington VT, where it will be performed at the University of Vermont and the downtown flagship Ben & Jerry's scoop shop.
Make your own artwork, then narrate the story the artwork shows, and make your next Free Palestine action even more effective.
And record a video too!
What's a Cantastoria? Here is the Wikipedia definition.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Willamette University decided to take some action. When Jerry Greenfield (co-founder and former CEO of Ben & Jerry's) gave a lecture at their campus recently to champion Ben & Jerry's radical social mission, he was politely challenged during the Q&A about ice cream sales in illegal settlements. After Jerry's unsatisfactory response SJP members staged a silent walkout. (You can watch it here).
Willamette University SJP members have launched a petition campaign to remove Ben & Jerry's ice cream from the campus shelves. Absolutely anyone can sign - the more the merrier! Go to https://goo.gl/forms/tLMYaZmdC0
The 185 US Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop franchise owners (who agree to the Ben & Jerry's Social Mission Statement) recently received a letter from the campaign. We appealed to them to recognize the Peace and Love mission of the Company and to request Ben & Jerry's to stop sales of its ice cream in illegal Jewish only settlements in occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The same letter also notified them that by popular request we are asking people of conscience to stop buying their ice cream. This Boycott is not intended to hurt the franchise owners, we hope it will result in their working with us to bring Ben & Jerry's business in Israel/Palestine into line with it's own Social Mission.
The text of the letter is here
On a blustery "Black Friday," November 28, 2014, activists were leafleting on Church Street in Burlington, Vermont, home to Ben & Jerry's flagship scoop shop, to tell shoppers about the commercial links between the company’s franchise in Israel and Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Hundreds of leaflets carrying the headline IT’S ALWAYS BLACK FRIDAY IN PALESTINE were distributed.
Shoppers were asked to contact the company and urge it to end its complicity with Israel’s illegal settlement regime.
According to the report in the International Business Times of October 10, 2014, the European Union will ban Israeli dairy products made in Occupied West Bank settlements from January.
The Israeli agricultural ministry informed dairy factories built beyond the pre-1967 Green Line, including the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem, that "it will no longer be possible to export dairy products produced over the Green Line, either directly or indirectly", according to the Jerusalem Post.
So, the international pressure is building against Israel's illegal occupation. When will Ben & Jerry's appreciate the consequences of doing business in Israel and having their ice cream sold in these illegal and exclusive Israeli settlements?
A group of Vermont activists came together to leaflet by the Ben & Jerry's 'Free Samples' ice cream tuck at the Burlington South End Art Hop on September 5th 2014. This event attracts 30,000 people over the weekend, and we handed out about 400 leaflets and engaged many concerned people in conversations about Palestine and Ben & Jerry's shameful complicity in the Occupation.
As we've heard before, many people are astonished to learn of Ben & Jerry's activity in Israel and Occupied Palestine and express strong support for this campaign to stop it.
Any event where Ben & Jerry's hands out ice cream provides a great opportunity to leaflet and to send the messages 'Today your Ice Cream is Free, but Palestine is not!' and 'Stop selling Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream in Illegal Settlements'. Let us know if we can help by providing leaflets or any other help at an event near you.
Ben & Jerry's should take note that among the homes, factories, hospitals and
schools blown up in the most recent attacks on Gaza, Israel also demolished a Palestinian ice cream factory.
According to a report by Electronic Intifada, Israel fired more than ten tank shells at an iconic ice cream and cookie factory in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, starting a fire that continued to blaze into the next day. The attack puts hundreds of people out of work and destroyed vital medicine stocks that had been stored in the building.
The Al-Awda Factory had employed 500 people who worked in two shifts and was therefore able to support thousands of family members, including children.
How can Ben & Jerry's continue to operate its factory — and distribute ice cream to illegal, Jewish-only settlements — in a land that destroys Palestinian competition with tank shells?
On June 22, 2014 at the House of Hope Presbyterian Church, St. Paul MN, in conjunction with a speech by Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, Members of Middle East Peace Now held the educational protest and handed out about 150 flyers before and after the event. Don (one of their members) challenged the speakers by asking: "there is much to admire in what you have done through Ben & Jerry's. However, I strongly oppose the sales of your ice cream in illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Many of us in this audience are Presbyterians. Two days ago, at our General Assembly, the Presbyterian Church took a stand by voting to divest from three corporations that are profiting from the brutal and illegal Israeli Occupation of Palestine. I'm asking you - Ben & Jerry - to take a stand and stop selling ice cream in the Illegal Israeli settlements." Several people in the audience applauded the question.
Jerry's first response was to thank Don for the nice way he handled his question. Then without really confronting the question he said that this was in the hands of their Israeli franchise business, and briefly mentioned its support of a Palestinian enterprise - Canaan Free Trade - that markets agriculture goods produced by Palestinian farmers.
At latest count (July 7th 2014), now 17 European Union countries have issued warnings to their nationals over doing business in Israeli settlements, stating "Financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurements as well as other economic activities (including services like tourism) in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements, entail legal and economic risks stemming from the fact that the Israeli settlements, according to international law, are built on occupied land and are not recognized as a legitimate part of Israel’s territory". The Spanish statement said: "Potential buyers and investors should know that a future peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, or between Israel and Syria could have consequences both for properties acquired and for economic activities promoted in said settlements. In case of litigation, it could be very difficult for member states to guarantee the protection of their interests." Also, EU entities considering commercial activities in settlements "should be aware of the potential implications for their reputation".
Ben & Jerry's and its parent (European) company Unilever are apparently unconcerned about these financial and legal implications of doing business in the illegal settlements.
After more than a year of calling on Ben & Jerry's to end its Israeli franchise's business in illegal, Jewish-only settlements, the Vermont company responded formally to VTJP in a letter dated April 16.
The bottom line: Selling its ice cream to Israel's illegal settlements will not end, but the company will do more to help Palestinian farmers and Canaan Free Trade "survive" the occupation.
Ben & Jerry's support for farmers may alleviate the suffering of some Palestinians, but it sidesteps the real issue - millions of Palestinians are still living and working under Israel’s illegal military occupation. Continuing to allow sales of their ice cream in illegal settlements is in direct contradiction of Ben & Jerry's "Progressive" Social Mission Statement: "To operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally". No one should live under prolonged military occupation and no socially responsible business should be collaborating with an oppressive apartheid regime.See our response here.
In March, a delegation from Ben & Jerry's Board of Directors visited the Palestinian Fair Trade Association and Canaan Fair Trade in the occupied West Bank. (Ben & Jerry's purchases almonds from Palestinian farmers through Canaan).
As reported at the Canaan Facebook page, Chairman of the Board Jeff Furman said afterwards: "I was deeply moved by my recent visit to Canaan Fair trade in the West Bank. Their work is incredibly important as it gives the small holder farmers a hope of surviving the occupation."
What does he mean by hope of surviving the occupation?
He should be calling for an end to the Occupation!
At the Facebook page, Faye (of Portland, Oregon) commented I'm glad you are encouraged. Now, how about getting Ben & Jerry's out of the illegal settlements...built on Palestinian land that was stolen from Palestinians?. We couldn't have said it better.
At the end of March 2014, we sent a letter to Ben & Jerry's calling on management to investigate new allegations that its franchise in Israel is involved in activities contrary to international law:
Ben & Jerry's Catering Services in Illegal Settlements.
The Israeli franchise is still apparently willing to send 'party carts' to Israeli settlements - we were led to believe last year that this practice had been stopped. Recently, an Israeli-Jewish activist emailed the factory and requested such catering services in the illegal settlement called Har Adar (Giv’at HaRadar). A company employee got back to the activist with a price offer, and without any indication that this transaction would be a problem.
Purchasing Equipment from a Factory in Illegally Occupied Territory.
Israeli BDS activists have informed us of a business relationship between the Ben & Jerry's Israeli franchise and Beth-Al Machinery, Ltd., involving equipment purchases from that company’s facilities in the occupied (Syrian) Golan Heights where Israel’s settlements and industrial zones are a violation of international law.
In an email from Rob Michalak (Director of Global Social Mission) on April 18, 2014 the company refused to respond to these new allegations.
Since March 2013, over 1700 emails were sent to Ben & Jerry's CEO Jostein Solheim appealing to the company to end its complicity in the occupation. Over 230 people wrote a personalized appeal.
Dozens of volunteers took part in Free Cone Day leafleting at 26 Ben & Jerry's locations across the US.
Yes - 26 locations from New Hampshire and New York to Oregon and California!
Click here for the Free Cone Day 2014 Report
It was a huge success - and a huge number of people made it happen! It’s clear that Ben & Jerry's is getting the message.
Also – this has been a great way to bring the message of Freedom for Palestine to people who are not aware of the situation and the injustices.
Take a look at photos of several of the actions.
Also, over 350 people sent a special Free Cone Day email message to Ben & Jerry's CEO, and others phoned in to the corporate headquarters.
(This in addition to over 1600 who have emailed over the past year)
Let's hope that next year we have a more positive message to publicise on Free Cone Day!
Will Thomas of New Hampshire Veterans for Peace reports that the "NH Rebellion" walkers arrived in Nashua, NH on January 24th to complete their journey in honor of Doris "Granny D" Hancock. The walk was to protest the overbearing influence of money in politics, and was joined by Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's, who is committed to this cause, and who arranged for Ben & Jerry's ice cream to be available at the end of the walk.
Will Thomas distributed our flyers drawing attention to Ben & Jerry's sales in illegal, Jewish-only settlements. NH Veterans for Peace is one of nearly 260 organizations that has endorsed our call to end this commercial complicity with Israel's occupation and settlement regime.
Granny D achieved national fame when, between the ages of 88 and 90, she walked over 3,200 miles (5,100 km) across the continental United States to advocate for campaign finance reform.
Our specially designed greeting card was given to shoppers in Burlington, to worshippers at 3 churches in Montpelier, people at an afternoon concert at a local Unitarian Church, a Messiah sing-along in Stowe and to employees at B∓J’s scoop shop in Burlington and its Waterbury factory. The card combined Banksy's artwork and text about Bethlehem obtained from If Americans Knew with "Season’s Greetings", a quote about Palestine from the late Nelson Mandela, and our demand that Ben & Jerry's cease selling ice cream in illegal Israeli settlements.
A package of fair trade gifts (Palestinian olive oil) and greeting cards were delivered to Ben & Jerry's corporate headquarters during the holiday season. Attached greeting cards featuring Banksy's image of the separation wall near Bethlehem included the message 'We hope to work with you for a Just Peace in 2014'.
Ben & Jerry's CEO, Jostein Solheim, was a featured speaker at "Making Dough, Making Change", an event featuring socially responsible business leaders held at the University of Vermont on September 26.
During the evening's question and answer session, Mr. Solheim was challenged by Nolan Rampy, an activist with Students for Justice in Palestine-UVM and the International Socialist organization, to explain how his company could reconcile its social mission with selling ice cream in Jewish-only settlements in Occupied Palestine.
A clearly uncomfortable Mr. Solheim responded that Ben & Jerry's does not do business directly in the settlements. It merely sells to distributors in Israel, who then market where they please. It seems that Ben & Jerry's does not want to accept responsibility for selling in the settlements, so hides behind the actions of its distributors.
In this way, Ben & Jerry's can keep making money selling its "peace and love" ice cream to Israeli settlers who terrorize Palestinians and steal their land while pretending to take the high road.
Apparently, Ben & Jerry's wants to have its socially responsible cookie dough, and eat it, too. It's the distributors' fault...
September 20 was a stunning, late summer day in Vermont. The perfect time for an ice cream "social" sponsored by Vermont Public Radio and featuring Ben & Jerry's delicious flavors. It was also the perfect occasion for informing the people of Plainfield, Vermont, where this social was held, about Ben & Jerry's complicity with Israel’s occupation and illegal, Jewish-only settlements.
Two VTJP activists distributed a few hundred leaflets at the Plainfield social and engaged local residents on Ben & Jerry's unethical business in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and how they could help end it. As usual, the great majority of the people we spoke with were surprised by the news and supportive of our efforts.
One woman said, "A friend of mine was supposed to come with me, but she said she won’t eat Ben & Jerry's ice cream again until they get out of the settlements in Palestine."
The South End Art Hop is a three-day event in Burlington, Vermont, that occurs every September. It attracts more than 30,000 visitors to art galleries and exhibition sites of more than 500 artists. Ben & Jerry's is a sponsor and gives away free ice cream at a prime location. We handed out several hundred leaflets and engaged visitors about Ben & Jerry's commercial complicity in Israel's military occupation and illegal settlements. The most common reaction to the news that Ben & Jerry's has a factory in Israel and sells ice cream in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank was " REALLY???"
VTJP’s campaign to end Ben & Jerry's commercial complicity with Israel’s illegal occupation and settlements has taken another leap forward. On September 9, we released a letter signed by over 150 civil society organizations across the world urging the company “to stand by its Social Mission and to ensure that its products are not sold, catered and distributed in Israeli settlements” in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The letter calls on Ben & Jerry's CEO Jostein Solheim "to take all necessary contractual and legal measures to bring your franchise’s settlement business to an end in a verifiable way, and to release a public statement of your company’s commitment to end its business ties to Israel’s occupation and settlement enterprise."
For the complete text of the letter and list of signatories, click here
If your organization would like to endorse the letter, click on this link
In mid-July, we sent a letter to all the the members of the Ben & Jerry's Board of Directors. It invited each individual to engage us directly on the matter of the company's commercial complicity with Israel’s occupation and illegal settlements. The letter said, in part, "We deeply value our dialogue with your company on the question of Israel/Palestine and the occupation, which is why we waited nearly two years before going public with our concerns. Because we are committed not only to sustaining that dialogue, but expanding it, we are reaching out to each Board member."
We did not receive a single response. Here's a link to the Members of the Board of Directors
On a more optimistic note, we heard from Rob Michalek (Ben & Jerry's Global Director of Social Mission) that "Mike Graning [Ben & Jerry's CFO] made a trip this summer [to Israel and the West Bank] and met with people from both sides of the issue".
Members of Vermonters for Justice in Palestine (vtjp.org) leafleted hundreds of passers-by in front of Ben & Jerry's scoop shop on Burlington’s Church Street mall on Sunday, July 14, 2013 wishing them a Happy Bastille Day and asking them to think about prisoners in Paris then, and Palestinians struggling today for their freedom in Israeli prisons and under occupation. See the report at Mondoweiss
Despite our earnest appeal to Ben & Jerry’s to recognize that doing business in Israel and occupied Palestine is inconsistent with its social mission, Y-NetNews.com reports that the Ben & Jerry’s plans to expand its business in Israel and the illegal settlements by adding frozen yogurt to its range of products and developing exports.
In the past, the company exported their products to Singapore and all of Europe, but stopped doing this after moving the factory to Be’er Tuvia. Franchise owner Avi Zinger stated “We hope to renew exports soon.” He explained that, “In Israel, we make up 12% of the ice cream market, while in economy packs we make up 17% of the market. The company generates NIS 50 million a year in Israel and we expect the Greek Frozen Yogurt sales to reach NIS 5 million ($1.4 million) by the end of the year.”
Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s and political activist, teamed up on June 18, 2013 with CodePink in Washington, D.C., to protest the influence of money in American politics. Afterwards, in coordination with VTJP, an activist with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation presented Ben with a petition signed by more than 3,900 people in support of VTJP's campaign and pressed him to do more to end Ben & Jerry’s commercial ties to Israel's occupation and illegal settlements. Copies of the petition and the list of its signatories were also sent by VTJP to Ben & Jerry’s CEO, Jostein Solheim.
Volunteers and activists distributed leaflets to people waiting in line for free cones at three Ben & Jerry’s locations in Burlington, VT, at Ben & Jerry’s Vermont corporate headquarters, and at Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops in Mount Kisco, NY, New York City, Greenbrae, CA, and Berkeley, CA. In Burlington, the action was reported by local television news stations. See Mondoweiss: Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day is Greeted by Free Palestine Demos and Free Cone Day details at the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.See photos from the “Free Cone Day” actions!
Responding to your phone calls, e-mails, extensive press coverage and “Free Cone Day” protests, Ben & Jerry's invited VTJP to meet on April 30th 2013.
This meeting, which VTJP had avidly requested for several months, lasted two hours. It was attended by the Chair of Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, its CEO, Chief Financial Officer, and the Global Director of Social Mission. VTJP sent a delegation of five activists.
To its credit, Ben & Jerry’s retracted inaccurate statements about Israel’s occupation and settlements that had been made to the media in the wake of our campaign’s launch.
CEO Jostein Solheim also said the company is aware that Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law.
He and Jeff Furman, Ben & Jerry’s Board Chair, reiterated that they believe the Ben & Jerry’s franchise in Israel has ceased operation of party carts to Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). Confirmation by Ben & Jerry’s and VTJP is still pending.
Jeff Furman also shared some of his experiences of his visit the oPt in 2012. He said that as a Jewish-American and social activist, he was profoundly affected by this trip. He expressed his critical analysis of Israel’s occupation and settlement regime and his general support for BDS.
Unfortunately, Mr. Furman and the company’s management team did not agree to end Ben & Jerry’s commercial complicity with Israel’s settlements. They asserted that their franchise does not control the destination of its ice cream after it is purchased by Israeli distributors who transport it to the settlements. They also fear that any effort to restrict business to settlements will put its licensee, Avi Zinger, at risk of settler backlash and legal action from Israel's 2010 anti-boycott law.
Solheim stated that previously Israeli licensee had been in a preferential situation, paying no royalties to the company, but we understand that here is now a formalized contract (apparently similar to those for other franchises).
The meeting ended with a commitment by both parties to keep talking.
We have urged Ben & Jerry's management team and Board directors to travel to the oPt to observe first-hand the realities of Israel’s military occupation and illegal settlements. Jeff Furman, the Board Chair, did so in 2012. But he is not alone now.
In late June 2013, Mike Graning, Ben & Jerry's Chief Financial Officer, also visited the oPt while in the region to meet with the head of the company’s franchise in Israel, Avi Zinger.
According to the message we received from Ben & Jerry's, "Mike’s Palestinian guide will provide him with a better understanding of, among other issues, settlements, water issues and the West Bank wall." and promised a more detailed summary of Graning’s trip to Israel/Palestine in mid- to late July 2013.
Ben & Jerry's executives have refused requests for media interviews but issued a statement. The statement mischaracterized Ben & Jerry's interactions with VTJP over the last two years and insisted that its Israeli franchise’s business is consistent with the company’s social mission but provided no elaboration or explanation. Ben & Jerry's also said it has a “shared responsibility” to promote the cause of peace in Israel/Palestine and wants to find “innovative ways” to do this, but it offered no specifics. The company’s statement did not include the words “occupation” or “settlements.”
Subsequently, the President of the Ben & Jerry's Board of Directors, Jeff Furman, told the Burlington Free Press that he believes catering operations to the settlements have stopped since VTJP brought the matter to the company’s attention. This would signify a major victory for the campaign!
VTJP is still working to confirm Furman’s claim and is asking groups to redouble efforts to ensure that Ben & Jerry's ends all complicity with Israel’s occupation and discriminatory policies.
Oberlin College is the alma mater of Ben & Jerry's co-founder, Jerry Greenfield. Forty Oberlin College students and alumni signed a letter to Mr. Greenfield urging the company to take actions called for by our Campaign.
Read their letter here: 'Obies' Urge Ben & Jerry's to End Complicity with Occupation.
The campaign has been covered by major Vermont media outlets as well as publications in the U.S., United Kingdom and Pakistan.
Some links to news and articles:
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August 2015, pp. 53-55Mark Hage: Ben & Jerry's Stands by Its Israeli Licensee in Occupied Palestine