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‘Obies’ urge Ben & Jerry’s to end complicity with occupation

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The following press release was sent to us yesterday. For more on the campaign to pressure Ben & Jerry’s see here.

Oberlin Students and Alumni urge Ben & Jerry’s to End Their Complicity in Israel’s Occupation and Illegal Settlements

Dear Jerry Greenfield, OC ‘73,

We understand that you have been in conversation with Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (VTJP) since 2011 and are beginning to hear from broader concerned communities about Ben & Jerry’s commercial complicity in Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its illegal, Jewish-only settlements. We thought it was time for you to hear from some fellow Obies who share a bit of your history.

You have, on a number of occasions, cited Oberlin values as part of your approach to ice cream and business. In 2008, when you returned to campus for a lecture titled “Liberal Arts, Social Responsibility, and Ice Cream,” you shared your memories of a radical Oberlin and your “firm belief that businesses do not have to choose between profit and social concerns.”

You spoke also about your most powerful Oberlin memory–the student strike after the Kent State shootings of May 1970. Some of us writing to you share your memories of Kent State. For many of us, like you, it was shockingly new that students could be killed at home for their resistance to militarization and inequality.

In communities of color in the U.S., however, this was not news. Today, this is also a daily reality for Palestinian and Israeli young people who have committed themselves to resisting apartheid and occupation.

Others of us writing to you have found ourselves in more recent Oberlin teach-ins over the last months, classes canceled again as we face the persistence of racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism in our communities. Generations of Oberlinians have and continue to grapple with how to make change and to understand our layers of complicity in systems of oppression that exist in our local and global worlds. In 2008, and on many other occasions, you have located yourself and the story of Ben & Jerry’s in this tradition.

Even after selling Ben & Jerry’s to a multinational corporation, Unilever, you remained confident that ethical socially responsible engagement would continue to drive Ben & Jerry’s business decisions:

“Ethical business is still possible. You just have to do things differently. Normal businesses think only about profit. We ask people to think about something else — social and environmental change. The work is harder, but it’s more fulfilling.”

Moreover, your impressive Social Mission still commits Ben & Jerry’s to:

…meet human needs and eliminate injustices in our local, national and international communities by integrating these concerns into our day-to-day business activities.

…seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice.
…show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.

We, members of your Oberlin community, urge you to put your Social Mission to work and take the following measures presented by VTJP until Israel ends its discriminatory practices and colonization of Palestinian lands in compliance with international law:

1. End the marketing, catering and sales of Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel and Jewish-only settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

2. Stop manufacturing ice cream in Israel.

3. Issue a statement calling (a) for an end to Israel’s occupation and settlement enterprise and (b) appeal directly to other socially responsible companies to do likewise and to end business operations in Israel and its illegal settlements.

We understand that what is being asked of you and the company you helped to found is not easily met in a world of neo-liberal globalization, but you have consistently made public commitments to fight the odds in favor of ethical engagement in the world. You and Ben & Jerry’s have waged this uphill battle before. Your Oberlin fellows want to remind you that you won’t be alone in this struggle.

Alice Beecher, OC ‘14
Robin Beck, OC ’09
John Bergen, OC ’14
Joshua Birch, OC ‘09
Louis Bodin, OC ‘11
Maia Brown, OC ‘10
Doug Brown, OC ‘70
Sam Cassanos, OC ‘10
Angus Chen, OC ‘13
Rachel Cotterman, OC ‘10
Daniel Cowan, OC ‘10
Joshua R. Christian, OC ‘11
Brittany Dawson, OC ‘13
Jade Doolan, OC ’09
Anne Elder, OC ‘53
John Elder, OC ‘53
Anna Ernst, OC ‘10
Dalia Fakhouri, OC ‘10
Allegra Fonda-Bonardi, OC ‘11
Kevin G. Gilfether, OC ‘13
Daniel Gould, OC ‘13
Nigar Hacizade, OC ‘09
Julie Haddad, OC ‘10
Justin Halliwill, OC 13
Amanda Jacir, OC ‘13
Isadora Jaffee, OC ‘13
Lucia Anne Kalinosky, OC ‘13
Margaret Kent, OC ‘10
Hannah Kali Lindner-Finlay, OC ‘10
Anna Lunde, OC ‘10
Bernie Mayer, OC ‘68
Ornella Delle Noci, OC ’13
Jonathan Sidney, OC ’11
Mark Sikorski, OC ‘16
Robert Sohmer, OC ‘15
Kadrieh Abu Shchada, OC ‘09
Tanya Tran, OC ‘15
Leo Walker, OC ’10
Maxwell Wolcott, OC ‘10
Mia Young, OC ‘13

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10 Responses

  1. just
    April 12, 2013, 10:29 am

    Well done Obies!

  2. pabelmont
    April 12, 2013, 10:38 am

    Eloquent. Let us hope that B&J “hears the cry” of these Oberlin students.

  3. Citizen
    April 12, 2013, 11:10 am

    Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is not made of natural ingredients anymore. Same with Breyer’s, which was my favorite for a long time. Quality has declined in both since being taken over by Unilever. In fact, I don’t know of any company in US that makes all natural ice cream anymore. Maybe Turkey Hill out of Lancaster County, PA, but that company’s products are not available in my area anyway. Anybody know a company that makes real ice cream these days?

    • sardelapasti
      April 12, 2013, 3:16 pm

      “Real ice cream”? Of course. Any number of small shops, often Italians born overseas. Small being the operative word.

    • ToivoS
      April 12, 2013, 8:22 pm

      Well you can make your own. It is not that hard, maybe a little time consuming. Once I saw how much pure cream is in the product it cured my desire for real ice cream. Well cholesterol levels were creeping up a bit.

  4. Rachel_Roberts
    April 12, 2013, 11:45 am

    Obies, please reach out to me! I am also an alum working for justice in Palestine! I know so many others who want to be part of initiatives like these! Get me on twitter at @rachelhinda !!!

  5. yourstruly
    April 12, 2013, 2:25 pm

    show a deep respect for human beings?

    but ben & jerry, you’ve left out palestinians

    is this because you consider them to be subhuman?

    so does israel


    or not?

  6. Kathleen
    April 12, 2013, 2:25 pm

    Go Obies…A real shift about the I/P conflict on some of Ohio’s campuses the last 10 years. Some have been pounding the pavement in that state as well as in Colorado. On the University of Dayton, Ohio Allison Weir was a guest speaker recently

    The case of Ben and Jerry’s is and has been another example of how so called liberals and supporters of human rights and social justice in many cases have and continue to support the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. One would think they would see the brutal hypocrisy but somehow they do not.

    Knew I had read that Unilever had decided to move one of their plants on the West Bank somewhere. Right here at Mondoweiss
    Unilever shuts down Ariel settlement factory, moves production west of the Green Line (Updated)

  7. charlesfrith
    April 12, 2013, 10:26 pm

    Excellent progress. Occupy Ice Cream is a top call to action

  8. Citizen
    April 13, 2013, 9:36 am

    Just so you know M Thatcher, the “iron lady,” made her big bucks pumping air into ice cream.

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