Pressure on Ben & Jerry’s
The international campaign to end Ben & Jerry's complicity in Israel's occupation and illegal settlement regime continues to gain momentum. On September 9, Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (VTJP) released a letter to CEO Jostein Solheim signed by 151 civil society organizations in the U.S. and worldwide. The letter's signatories share a commitment to international law and human rights, and believe that a company's social mission should be more than words on paper.
Dear CEO Solheim:
Ben & Jerry's has long advocated for peace and human rights. Your Social Mission articulates a commitment to the welfare, security and dignity of all communities, local, national and international. And yet Ben & Jerry products are being sold in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Their existence is predicated on systematic repression, racial segregation, land dispossession, the unlawful expropriation of water, and pervasive violence against Palestinians.
We who have signed this letter share a commitment to international law and human rights principles. Therefore, we are writing to urge Ben & Jerry's to stand by its Social Mission and to ensure that its products are not sold, catered and distributed in Israeli settlements. Taking this action would help to expose the devastating consequences and illegality of Israel's settlement enterprise. It would also set a powerful example of socially responsible engagement in Israel/Palestine for other companies to emulate.
The call for companies to cease doing business in the occupied Palestinian Territory has had tremendous success throughout Europe and is growing on American college campuses nationwide. The call has been echoed in the United Nations and supported by mainline Protestant denominations in the United States and Canada.
In January, a United Nations' fact-finding mission issued a report calling on private companies doing business in Israeli settlements "to assess the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps--including by terminating their business interests in the settlements--to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People in conformity with international law as well as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights."
In May 2012, the United Methodist Church passed a resolution denouncing Israel's occupation and settlements, and beseeching "all nations to prohibit the import of products made by companies in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land." Shortly thereafter, in July 2012, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for "the boycott of all Israeli products coming from the occupied Palestinian territories." The rationale for the resolution noted, "Since the occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967, Israel has used its military rule to the advantage of Israeli corporations and economic interests, many times to the detriment of the Palestinian economy under its control."
Although Ben & Jerry's Israeli franchise is not manufacturing ice cream in the settlements, by selling to settlement venues, it is a corporate beneficiary of Israel's military and economic domination of the occupied Palestinian Territory.
We cannot reconcile Ben & Jerry's Social Mission and support of progressive causes with your franchise's commerce in Israeli settlements. Thus, consistent with international law and Ben & Jerry's Social Mission, we call on you 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.