More than 150 activist groups and civil society organizations around the world have signed on to a statement urging the US ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s to discontinue sale or distribution in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The campaign, launched in March by Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel — Vermont is where Ben & Jerry’s is headquartered — calls on the company’s chief executive officer 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 groups also demand that Ben & Jerry’s release a public statement committing to “end its business ties to Israel’s occupation and settlement enterprise.”
Ben & Jerry’s (which was bought by European multinational Unilever in 2000) has a long history of celebrating progressive causes, and activists say that the company’s operations in illegal Israeli settlements run counter to the company’s stated mission.
But this is not the first controversy surrounding Ben & Jerry’s and Israeli settlements. In 1998, the company angered settler and anti-Palestinian groups by announcing it would no longer use mineral water from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which belong to Syria, to make sorbet.
The statement reads, in part:
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 (oPt) 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.
A full list of signatories can be found here.