Mark Hage leaflets outside Ben and Jerry’s in Burlington, on Bastille Day
Members of Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (www.vtjp.org) leafleted hundreds of passers-by in front of Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop on Burlington’s Church Street mall on Sunday, July 14, wishing them a Happy Bastille Day and asking them to think about prisoners in Paris then, and Palestinians struggling for their freedom today in Israeli prisons and under occupation.
While many passers-by, even those from nearby francophone Montreal, don’t remember much about the day the French celebrate their independence, most were very supportive of efforts to get Ben and Jerry’s to stop distribution of their ice cream in illegal Jewish-only settlements. Vermonters are beginning to get the message that their iconic home-grown ice cream makers are not living up to their own progressive social mission that promotes peace and justice over militarization, and that ‘Progressive Except for Palestine’ (PEP) finds no exception, even with the company known here as “Vermont’s Finest.”
“We seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice. We believe government resources are more productively used in meeting human needs than in building and maintaining weapons systems.
We strive to show a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.”
Most Vermonters are aware that the company was purchased by Unilever in 2001.
Bastille Day poster for Ben and Jerry’s
But not, strangely enough, that they control an Israeli factory that was not included in this takeover, and is still governed by B&J headquarters here in Vermont. What Ben and Jerry’s does in Israel, therefore, is a Vermont concern, not the concern of the multinational giant based in Europe that has fought its own BDS battles. Just this year Unilever finally bowed to international pressure to move one of its factories from a West Bank settlement to a location within the Green Line.
VTJP is currently engaged in a campaign to pressure Ben and Jerry’s to stop catering and distribution of its products in the settlements, and to take a public stand against the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory that is in line with its social mission. Thousands of people have responded by emailing the company and more than one hundred organizations internationally have joined us to pressure Ben and Jerry’s to stand by their social mission and promote justice for all, including, not excepting, the Palestinian people.
See http://www.vtjp.org/icecream/ for a full report and to contact Ben and Jerry’s to ask them to honor their own social mission and stop supporting the illegal occupation of Palestine.