VTJP and Migrant Justice showed their solidarity at the Independence Day Celebration in Montpelier July 3rd 2019.
People walked together in the parade along State Street with a Declaration of hope and freedom. The signs and banners were in solidarity with all people separated by walls and those imprisoned while seeking their human rights. The enthusiastic reception by the crowds lining the parade route was inspiring!
VTJP members help pass Resolutions at the 186th Convention of The Episcopal Church in Vermont
Members and supporters of VTJP testified at the Convention, which then passed the Resolutions unanimously.
Application of the Leahy Laws to Israel
RESOLVED, That the 186th Convention of the Diocese of Vermont request the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the Vermont congressional delegation to urge the United States Departments of State and Defense to apply the Leahy Laws to Israel.
Freedom of Speech and the Right to Boycott
RESOLVED, That the 186th Convention of the Diocese of Vermont urge the President of the United States and the Vermont congressional delegation to oppose legislation that would penalize companies and organizations for their participation in nonviolent boycotts on behalf of Palestinian human rights, as such legislation, at both federal and state levels, would be an infringement on First Amendment rights.
Regarding Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Lands and Israel’s Apartheid Policies toward Palestinian People
Resolved, That the 186th Convention of the Diocese of Vermont support the rule of international law and condemn the ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands that is illegal and in direct violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242; and be it further
Resolved, That the Convention support the right of Palestinians to self-determination, freedom of movement, property rights, unrestricted access to water, electricity, medical care, primary and secondary education, economic opportunities, permission to build and retain homes, and commerce; and be it further
Resolved, That the Convention urge members of The Episcopal Church in Vermont to pray, reflect and openly discuss how the policies of the Israeli government toward Palestinians may contribute to a state of militarization and apartheid, and whether such conditions are consistent with our Baptismal Covenant to strive for human dignity and freedom for all people in the region.
Rally at Elbit Systems in Merrimack on Dec. 7th 2018
Several New England Groups joined the rally at the Israeli weapons giant Elbit factory entrance. Many people in passing cars and trucks honked or gave thumbs-up or peace signs in approval. Elbit provides technology for drones that transmit the location of activists in the Great March of Return in Gaza to Israeli snipers. Elbit is also makes a killing on contracts with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to build surveillance towers along the US-Mexico border. Participants then presented a petition to Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) who has taken at least $10,500 in campaign contributions from Elbit Systems. Elbit is Israel’s largest publicly traded weapons company, manufacturing repression and death from Palestine to the U.S.-Mexico border.
VTJP helps prevent Deadly Exchange training of VT Police
A coordinated campaign with the JVP organization Deadly Exchange resulted in Vermont State Police canceling a trip sponsored by the Anti Defamation League to Israel to learn “counter-terrorism tactics”.
Read some of the Media Coverage:
Middle East Monitor
Palestinian flag flies at University of Vermont
In recognition of the International day of solidarity with the Palestinian people (Nov 29th), UVM Students for Justice in Palestine arranged for the Palestinian flag to be flown for a week on the ‘third flagpole’ outside the Student Center. On the evening of November 29th three VTJP people joined about 20 students for a candlelight vigil when they read Palestinian poetry and set up ‘lawn signs’ with text in solidarity with the Palestinian people on the approach to the flag pole.
VTJP Stands in Solidarity with Migrant Justice
Migrant Justice is suing ICE and Vermont’s DMV, alleging that these agencies used an informant to infiltrate the organization, collecting information on activists who were subsequently targeted for arrest by ICE. VTJP was invited to join a rally on November 15th, 2018 when we marched to Burlington’s Federal Building while attorneys for Migrant Justice were filing the suit. Read the report in Seven Days and here in the Guardian. The plaintiffs are represented by a coalition of activists and legal heavyweights: the ACLU of Vermont, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, the National Immigration Law Center, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a large law firm headquartered in Los Angeles.
Protesters challenge Ben & Jerry’s at World Village Festival (Finland)
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.
VTJP people meeting with Senator Sanders’ Foreign Policy Advisor, Matthew Duss.
In the meeting on Sept. 17th 2018 with Matthew Duss, Sandy, Wafic and Ian
– Thanked Senator Bernie Sanders for his recent statements and actions supportive of Palestinian rights including publicizing the video of people speaking from Gaza.
We expressed our concerns about
– the anti-BDS legislation and States and also in the US congress, including S720, which appears to be unconstitutional, at least as might be interpreted by courts historically.
– our concerns about Israeli actions against peaceful protesters in Gaza.
– our concerns about US military support to Israel, and the lack of action via the ‘Leahy Law’ – can’t more be done?
– the recent ‘Nation State’ Israeli law and implications for democracy there.
Mr Duss summarized several supportive positions taken by Sen. Sanders. He listened sympathetically and made notes about what we said, and noted that he personally had traveled to Gaza several times.
VTJP is a sponsor of the 2nd Annual Race Against Racism, starting 11:30 at Montpelier High School on September 22nd, 2018.
The Race Against Racism is a youth-led community event starting with a 5K run/walk through the city of Montpelier. After the race a performance portion will feature activists, artists, musicians, and performances.
Run to show your support for equality in VT, or just come to the Rally. Facebook Event:
Kathy speaking Monday June 25th, 2018
Ian at the Rally in Burlington, June 30th, 2018
Refugees, Border fences, and blaming the victim.
VTJP supported and co-sponsored “Families Belong Together” rallies in Montpelier and Burlington Vermont, attended by hundreds of people.
Separating children from their parents is part of the Administration’s zero tolerance policy. They have been systematically criminalizing immigration and immigrants, revoking Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and ramping up intimidating ICE tactics.
We drew attention to the parallels between the treatment of children and refugees in both Palestine and the USA.
This is Kathy’s text
This is Ian’s text
70 Years of Nakba, occupation and colonization
Vermont’s Peace and Justice Center <https://www.pjcvt.org> has published three articles about the Nakba in May/June 2018
A Palestinian Speaks – Migrant, Refugee and Person of Color in Vermont by Wafic Faour who is a Palestinian American who has lived in Vermont for 27 years.
Palestinian Diary: The Short Life of Razan Al-Najjar, Paramedic – Human Shield or Human Being?
By Khalid Myshkin & Kathy Shapiro.
Reflections on the Palestinian Nakba: Year 70 By Mark Hage.
Brattleboro Group’s full-page ad about Gaza. Send a message of thanks to Senator Bernie Sanders
Our friends at Brattleboro Common Sense placed a full-page ad in the Burlington Free Press with the message “Mercy for Palestine”
Send a ‘Thank you’ message to Bernie by phoning (802) 862 0697. Or write to him here
This is the text of the Ad:
One million children in Gaza lack adequate drinking water.
Israel has managed an effective media blackout about the conditions in Gaza. Israel has blockaded Gaza for 12 years, strangling the economy and restricting all kinds of good and medicine. The UN has reported that the water supply is poisonous or inadequate, and has condemned Israel for the ‘unlivable’ conditions. Gaza is a virtual concentration camp. In recent weeks thousands of Palestinians walked towards the Israeli fence that cages them in that unlivable place. Many sacrificed their lives to show their desperation to an unhearing world. They were shot by distant snipers whom they could not see. Few Americans have expressed sympathy for the Palestinians publicly as Bernie Sanders has. Call Bernie’s office now (802 862 0697). He must go to Gaza. The media and cameras will follow. Let the world see what humanitarian disaster Israel and US war policy have made! Call Sanders with your support to visit Gaza and push Israel to end this inhuman, illegal, immoral blockade. Free Gaza! Mercy for Palestine! Fairness and safe homeland for Palestine as for Israel.
Vermont’s own Bernie Sanders releases a remarkable video giving a voice to Palestinian people.
While Israel’s narrative dominates Congress, the White House and the ‘main-stream media’, Bernie stated: “The voices of the Palestinians are rarely heard. This is what life is like for those who are living in Gaza under a 10 year blockade”
Send a ‘Thank you’ message to Bernie here
Palestinians describe life in Gaza (by Bernie Sanders).
Watch it here on YouTube
Palestinian Diary: The Short Life of Razan Al-Najjar, Paramedic: Human Shield or Human Being?
Razan Ashraf Abdul Qadir al-Najjar, 21 was killed on June 1 by Israeli sniper fire as she ran in her white uniform with a red cross clearly identifying her as a medic, to treat a protester wounded in the “Great March of Return.” She was near Khan Younis and about 100 metres from the border fence that Israel erected around Gaza. Was Razan simply a human shield for Hamas, giving up her life for a photo op as is claimed in mainstream media, or was she a full blown young person with loved ones, plans, dreams? Presented as a pawn stripped of human agency, we don’t need to deal with the suffering her early death has caused, or address the larger suffering of Palestinians imprisoned in Gaza.
From an article by VTJP’s Kathy and Khalid in the Peace and Justice Center Blog
Full article here
Photo source: https://www.informationclearinghouse.info/49564.htm
VTJP representative was at the State House supporting legislation for new PreK-12 standards promoting education of Vermont’s children that is bias-free, representative, and builds cultural competence.
Our schools can be an inclusive environment for all students, but not if we continue to ignore and exclude the histories and accomplishments of socially marginalized groups. Ethnic studies help build bridges and dispel myths about history, literature, and science. They promote student achievement, positive identity development, and a sense of awareness and connectedness to local, national, and global communities. We know that students from traditionally marginalized groups face many obstacles at school. Students of color in Vermont are more likely to be disciplined or suspended than white students, and a higher percentage are bullied, threatened, injured, and miss school due to safety concerns. LGBTQUIA students and students with disabilities describe similar experiences.
Free Cone Day Action – Tuesday, April 10th 2018
On Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day Ice Cream is Free
but Palestinian People are not Free!
This year (2018) hundreds of people sent emails to the Ben & Jerry’s Management, Board and Founders about sales of their ice cream in illegal Jewish-only settlements in occupied Palestine, and their failure to live up to their declared Social Mission. Others left phone messages for the company’s Global Director of Social Mission. And people handed out leaflets at scoop shops for those in line for their free ice cream.
The message to Ben & Jerry’s: “Stop your complicity in the Illegal Occupation of Palestine!”
Palestine and Israel in Film: A Six-Week Series
The Montpelier Senior Activity Center (MSAC) and Vermonters for Justice in Palestine (VTJP) host Israel-Palestine Film Series & Discussion.
Mondays from February 12th – March 19th – 6:30-9:00 Free and open to the public.
MSAC, 58 Barre St., Montpelier, second floor. [map]
The mix of dramas and documentaries presents critical, complex perspectives on life, culture, and conflict in the occupied Palestinian territory (the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza) from the viewpoints of Palestinian, Israeli-Jewish, Libyan, Italian, and American-Jewish filmmakers. Six films will be screened, each followed by a community discussion facilitated by Kathy Shapiro and Mark Hage, VTJP members.
More Information about this film series
They’re still at it – Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream selling in illegal settlements
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.
(Click on images to enlarge)
The Ghost of Lord Balfour
Palestine on the 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration: Looking Back & Looking Forward
At the Montpelier Public Library November 16, Thursday, 7pm
With Kathy Shapiro, Mark Hage and Wafic Faour.
2017 is the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. It is also the 50th anniversary of Israel’s brutal military occupation of Palestinian lands – the Golan Heights the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Today there are approximately 650,000 Israelis living illegally in Jewish-only settlements on stolen land in occupied Palestine. 4.5 million Palestinians under occupation are denied fundamental civil and human rights. Co-sponsored by the Kellogg Hubbard Library and Vermonters for Justice in Palestine.
More Information about the Balfour Declaration
Steven Salaita: Colonialism on the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration
Palestine: Long Road to Freedom – Reflections on Resistance to Occupation & Colonialism on the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration
Thursday, November 9, 2017, at the University of Vermont.
With Steven Salaita, a scholar, political commentator and activist and author of 8 books, most recently Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine.
Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series
Vermonters for Justice in Palestine
University of Vermont (UVM) International Socialist Organization, and others.
More Information about the Balfour Declaration
Watch the Channel 17 recording
Consul General of Israel Speaks in Vermont
Consul General Yehuda Yaakov from the Israel Consulate in Boston spoke on “The Importance of the Jubilee Year” at the Kellogg Hubbard Library in Montpelier, Wednesday 30 August 2017,
He addressed a gathering of about 25 people lauding many aspects of Israeli life, including the “four tribes: secular Jews, reform Jews, orthodox Jews and Arabs” (refusing to call them Palestinians, but noting that they are treated “extremely well”) and water resources. He considered that West Bank Arabs actually “steal water from each other”, but did not acknowledge Israeli theft of water. He received hard questions from the audience, which he evaded answering in any substantive way. After a member of the audience, a Palestinian refugee, spoke about the life of his family as second class citizens of Israel in the Galilee, Mr. Yaakov cut the presentation short one half hour early, apparently not prepared for the level of criticism he received.
Note: VTJP is sponsoring an event on the 100th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration at the same library on Nov. 16.
Native Voices Traveling Encampment – Burlington – July 30th 2017
The Encampment on the Fletcher Free Library (Burlington) lawn on Sunday, July 30 2017 featured storytelling and music from Native American, Bedouin and Palestinian performers who were traveling with a tipi and a Bedouin tent. Participants were Travis Harden (Lakota Hochunk storyteller, artist, and Native American singer), Alber Baseel (Palestinian percussionist from Burlington’s sister city of Bethlehem), Khalil Alamour (Bedouin lawyer, historian, and community leader from Alsira in the Negev/Naqab, Israel), Saber Shreim (Palestinian actor from Jenin, Occupied West Bank/Palestine) and Donald Stevens, Chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk – Abenaki Nation and storyteller from northern Vermont. VTJP Co-sponsored with Tree of Life Educational Fund tolef.org. Video by CCTV Center for Media & Democracy. See the report by Kymelya Sari at ‘Seven Days’.
Independence Day 2017: Sending a Message
Vermonters lined up for the parade in the State Capital Montpelier with a Declaration on behalf of Palestine: END U.S. FUNDING OF THE ISRAEL OCCUPATION – Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness for Palestinians – That’s Radical!
Our banner, flags and sign were received enthusiastically with hand-waves, applause and ‘peace’ signs from the crowd on State Street.
July 4th 2017: A Declaration for Palestine
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce the Palestinians under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government. Read the text…
Abbreviated and adapted from the 4th July 1776 Declaration of Independence.
June 23rd 2017: Release arrested Vermont dairy workers!
Wafic spoke on behalf of refugees, migrants and exploited workers everywhere at the Migrant Justice rally at the State House in Montpelier, demanding the release of two organizers of the Milk with Dignity march to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury arrested five days previously, (see 7-Days Report).
June 17th 2017: ICE arrests Vermont dairy workers after March for Dignity
VTJP joined hundreds marching from Montpelier to the Ben & Jerry’s factory supporting the demand of Migrant Justice: the Company ” must ensure farmworkers’ rights are respected in their supply chain by joining the Milk with Dignity Program, without further delay, as promised 2 years ago!” Ominously, shortly after the March, border agents arrested two of the organizers, 7-Days Report.
What? – They did it again – Vermont Senators laud illegal occupation.
Marking 50 years since the start of the Six Day War, our US Senators voted on June 5th 2017 for a resolution celebrating Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital” and calling on the Trump administration to move the US Embassy there. The nonbinding measure was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and passed 90-0.
However – we thank Congressman Welch who voted in January 2017 against House Resolution 11” Objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 as an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace, and for other purposes.”. Peter Welch was one of 80 members of Congress who voted against it, and previously was one of seven Members encouraging Democrats to oppose misguided resolution on Israel.
Ben & Jerry’s Nordic Social Mission manager challenged about war crimes in occupied Palestine
At the World Village Festival in Helsinki, Finland’s biggest multicultural event, Ben & Jerry’s was one of the sponsors. They had a panel on May 27th 2017 on social responsibility, and the Ben & Jerry’s person in the ‘hot seat’ Soledad Piñero Misa (the new Nordic Social Mission manager) was challenged by a sign reading “Ben & Jerry’s: – Stop Selling in Illegal Israeli settlements” and asked why do they profit from war crimes and when will they stop? She explained that she’s only been on the job a few weeks and doesn’t know about the Palestine connection, but will look into it.
I didn’t write that letter (I just signed it)
That’s what #berniesanders said when challenged on why he signed a letter, along with 99 other US Senators to the UN Secretary General complaining of bias against Israel, especially in how it addresses human rights. In a bullying tone the letter implies that as a larger contributor to the UN budget (countries contribute according to the size of their population), the US should be able to dictate UN priorities.
VTJP is promoting a letter writing campaign to Bernie (fax to (202) 228-0776) in protest. Here’s a sample, published by the Times Argus.
Image is by Steve Bell in the Guardian
VTJP at press conference in the Vermont Statehouse
VTJP member Wafic speaks at a press conference in the Vermont Statehouse to announce the signing and pending signature of H308 “An act relating to the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel”. VTJP is among the 32 sponsoring organizations. This bill establishes a panel with responsibilities for overseeing criminal and juvenile justice systems in Vermont and will also have a role in “educating and engaging with communities, businesses, educational institutions, State and local governments, and the general public about the nature and scope of racial discrimination in the criminal and juvenile justice system.”
VTJP joins May Day Rally in Solidarity with our Vermont Migrant Workers.
Hundreds rallied with #MigrantJustice in Burlington on May 1st 2017, marching to Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop from the Workers’ Center. These workers provide us with our food, but are not protected from exploitation. Ben & Jerry’s promised Milk with Dignity but did not follow through. Marchers demanded Si, se Puede! Justice for All!
Vermonters Rally in Support of our Migrant Workers.
Hundreds rallied with #MigrantJustice in Montpelier to demand release of migrant workers #FreeAlex #FreeKike #freezully detained by ICE (U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement). VTJP spoke from the State House steps with message of solidarity. These workers provide us with our food, but are not protected from exploitation. Now they are arrested and their families split up.
Sound Familiar? From Palestine to Vermont: The Limits of Ben & Jerry’s
In 2011, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine (VTJP) asked Ben & Jerry’s to sever its Israeli franchise’s business in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in occupied Palestine.In 2013, after two years of inaction by the company on its central demand, VTJP launched an international campaign calling for an end to the company’s commercial complicity with Israel’s cruel occupation and colonial-apartheid regime.
In 2015, Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based organization working “to build the voice, capacity, and power of the farm-worker community and engage community partners to organize for economic justice and human rights”, received a commitment from Ben & Jerry’s “to source its milk in compliance with our human rights.” Two years later, the organization and workers it represents, many of whom labor 60 to 80 hours per week, with no days off, are still waiting for Ben & Jerry’s to follow through on its promise.
Ben & Jerry’s Must Lead
VTJP and Migrant Justice, each in its own way, have independently urged Ben & Jerry’s to take the lead as a socially responsible company and stand up for human rights. If the company leads in Palestine and Vermont, others will follow.
Ben & Jerry’s has failed to do so.
“Peace & Love” ice cream is still being sold to Israeli settlers. And migrant workers in Vermont are being grossly exploited to produce milk used to make “Peace & Love” ice cream.
Enough! Basta Ya!
Ben & Jerry’s famous Social Mission statement does not define a commitment to social justice. The company acting boldly, radically, and consistently in defense of human and civil rights, at home and abroad, does.
VTJP calls on everyone to stand in solidarity with Migrant Justice. Support its efforts to compel Ben & Jerry’s to implement the “Milk with Dignity” promises it made in 2015. A May Day march and rally is planned in Burlington, Vermont, on May 1, 2017, to keep up the pressure.
To learn more about Migrant Justice, what it is planning in 2017, and how you can support it politically and financially, go to: https://migrantjustice.net/about.
Now online at the Channel 17 ‘Town Meeting Television’ website:
In the series “What’s Going On” Sandy Baird, Wafic Faour, Marc Estrin, and Ian Stokes, discuss the work and concerns of Vermonters for Justice in Palestine.
Senator Bernie Sanders – Please Oppose David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel
Jewish Voice for Peace thanks Bernie and urges him to oppose Friedman for ambassador to Israel in this advert in the Burlington Free Press.
Open Shuhada Street Vigil in Manchester NH – February 18th 2017
Members of @VTJP1948 join demonstration for #OpenShuhadaStreet with other Justice for #Palestine groups in Manchester NH.
VTJP Joins Justice for All and adds request to their Demands
Request submitted to VT Lieutenant Governor @DaveZuckermanVT by VTJP: “Establish a public database of Vermont companies that do business, directly or through franchises and subsidiaries, in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, and, where applicable, divest state funds from companies, regardless of where they are based, that invest or do business in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories or sell weapons, munitions or military equipment to Israel’s military and police forces.”
Refugee and Immigrant Rights – Here, Palestine – Everywhere
The Rally/March for refugee and immigrant rights January 31st in Burlington’s City Hall Park was another massive (800 +) turnout against injustice here, in Palestine, everywhere. There were speakers on behalf of VTJP and others.
Bonanza for Sales of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream to 2500 More Homes in Illegal Settlements
Even more Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will now be sold in illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank as the Netanyahu-Trump collaborative plans 2500 more residential homes for construction in illegal settlements. This was reported on January 24th 2017 by the Guardian newspaper and the BBC. This is in addition to plans for additional construction in East Jerusalem to consolidate its annexation. At the same time there is a huge increase in demolitions of Palestinian homes by the Israeli occupation. Profits will trump “Peace and Love” again.
Submission to the U.N. Human Rights Council about Ben & Jerry’s involvement in settlements
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is implementing the mandate arising from a resolution adopted by the council on March 24, 2016, entitled Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.This office of the U.N. is mandated to report to the Council on implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to produce a database of all business enterprises involved in activities having implications for those rights.
We have requested that Ben & Jerry’s and its franchise in Israel be added to the database.
The UN Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.
Ben & Jerry’s: Why do Palestinian Lives not Matter to You?
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.
Ben & Jerry’s Business in Israeli Settlements Brings Divestment Pressure on Parent Company Unilever
Ben & Jerry’s refusal to stop the sale of its ice cream in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in Occupied Palestine is having repercussions for Unilever, its parent company.
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.
Ben & Jerry’s Apartheid Wall
Israel has its infamous apartheid wall, but humans, too, build walls — internally. Jeff Furman, the chair of Ben & Jerry’s board of directors, is a case in point.
Recently VTJP wrote a letter to Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors Chair, Jeff Furman, a long-time civil rights activist and progressive voice in support of Palestinian rights. We asked him and Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim to publicly condemn the ominous targeting of Israeli Palestinian BDS co-founder Omar Bargouti by the Israeli Minister of Intelligence for “targeted civil thwarting”. In this interview, the Minister makes accusations against Mr. Bargouti, insinuating that he and other BDS activists have ties to terrorist organisations, without giving any evidence. When we received no response from either Mr. Furman or Mr. Solheim we called on our supporters to personally email them requesting appropriate action. Over 100 individuals wrote personal (not ‘form’) emails.
Mr. Furman did respond, but only as an individual not as an official (Chairman of the Board of Directors) of Ben & Jerry’s. It is convenient to hide behind the powerlessness of one’s individual’s voice, to wring one’s hands in anguish that Omar Bargouti’s life has been threatened by Israeli officials, and to sign an online petition in his support as an example of the only thing that one can do. But this is the essence of PEP, Progressive Except for Palestine, and the stand that Ben and Jerry’s, the Vermont-based company takes. They and Mr. Furman have built their own convenient wall to stand behind, denying the fact that their existence in Israel and their ice cream sales within the illegal Jewish settlements contributes to the normalisation of the egregious oppression of the Palestinian people.
Mr. Furman to his credit has personally met with Mr. Bargouti and is in a position to do much more than sign an email petition on Mr. Bargouti’s behalf. As Chairman of the BOD he could come out from behind his self-made Apartheid wall and take the public stand, that Israel’s latest wrong against non-violent resistant must be sanctioned publicly.
Free Cone Day 2016 Report
Every year, Ben & Jerry’s serves ‘free’ cones at scoop shops. “Your Ice Cream is Free, but Palestinians are Not! “. This year it was on April 11th 2016 and, as in the previous 3 years, volunteers took advantage of this opportunity to hand out leaflets to people waiting in line, and to talk about Ben & Jerry’s complicity in the illegal and immoral occupation and colonization of Palestine. This year over 2500 leaflets were handed out in ten cities in eight US States, as well as in Montréal Québec.
See the full report here.
Targeted Killing of BDS People
On April 6 2016, we wrote a letter to Ben & Jerry’s calling on the ” Peace and Love” company to condemn recent threats by Israeli officials against Omar Barghouti and other Palestinian BDS activists.
The Israeli Minister of Transportation, Intelligence and Atomic energy, Yisrael Katz, had said that Israel must carry out a “targeted civil thwarting of the BDS leadership,” naming Omar Barghouti and other activists. (“Targeted thwarting” is an Israeli military term for “assassination”). Additionally, according to Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the revocation of Mr. Barghouti’s permanent residency status in Israel is being contemplated in retaliation for his BDS organizing.
Our letter requested Ben & Jerry’s to “issue a strong public statement condemning the recent attacks against Omar Barghouti and other BDS activists, and demanding that the government of Israel put a stop to them immediately and take all necessary measures to protect the lives of these activists and to defend their human and civil rights.”
VASSAR Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Calls Out Ben & Jerry’s in Passing BDS Resolution
On March 6th 2016, the Vassar Student Association (VSA) voted to endorse the Palestinian-led international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in support of Palestinian rights and an end to Israeli human rights abuses. The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) BDS resolution was passed by a vote of 15 in favor and 7 opposed.
VTJP wrote expressed its deep gratitude to Vassar SJP for including Ben & Jerry’s in the resolution because of its Israeli franchise’s commercial complicity with illegal, Jewish-only settlements. The other listed companies listed are: the Strauss Group, the Osem Group, Hewlett-Packard Company, Ahava, General Electric, Eden Springs, Motorola, Caterpillar, G4S, and Elbit Systems.
A bylaw amendment that would have prevented VSA funds from being spent on products listed in the resolution did not secure the needed 2/3 majority to be adopted; it failed by a vote of 12 in favor to 10 opposed. Considerable pressure was brought to bear on VSA by the college’s Board of Trustees and senior-level administrators. They told student leaders that if the bylaw amendment passed the administration would assume control over the VSA’s $900,000 activities budget.
Vassar’s BDS activists protested these threats as “a coercive tactic and represent a clear betrayal of the principle of shared governance between students and administrators central to the VSA and the functioning of the College more broadly.”
Human Rights Watch has just released (January 2016) a damning report:
Occupation, Inc. How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights
The report makes three major recommendations to businesses active in Israeli settlements:
– Cease activities carried out inside settlements;
– Avoid financing, administering or otherwise supporting settlements or settlement related activities and infrastructure, to ensure the businesses are not indirectly contributing to and benefiting from such activities;
– Conduct human rights due diligence.
The report documents in over 100 pages how almost immediately after Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank in 1967 the Israeli government began establishing settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
From the outset, private businesses have been involved in Israel’s settlement policies, benefiting from and contributing to them.
The report details the ways in which Israeli and international businesses have helped to build, finance, service, and market settlement communities. Businesses are drawn to settlements by low rents, favorable tax rates, government subsidies, and access to cheap Palestinian labor.
It’s clearer than ever how Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sold in illegal settlements supports Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights.
Will they act now?
Email Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim and demand an explanation.
Art Hop 2015 in Burlington,VT.
This year the Art Hop – weekend of September 11-13, 2015 – included a powerful ‘comic strip’ installation with artwork by Michelle Sayles in collaboration with Jen Berger. A series of 8 panels tells one woman’s story of military occupation and oppression over 8 decades. The Ben & Jerry’s ‘free’ ice cream truck was located across the street from the ‘comic strip’ art installation. Many people were visibly moved by the art installation and the story it tells.
Our action also included a performance of the Cantastoria about Ben & Jerry’s in Palestine for the people waiting in line for ‘free’ ice cream (performance by Mark Hage). Leaflets about Ben & Jerry’s in occupied Palestine were handed out to people viewing the art, and those waiting for ‘free’ ice cream cones. Many people were visibly moved by the art installation and the story it tells.
The South End Art Hop attracts over 30,000 visitors to artist’s studios and local businesses that become exhibition sites for the more than 500 participating artists.
Re-Directing Mis-Direction – Ben & Jerry’s Tries to Defend the Indefensible
As in previous statements, this one deliberately sidesteps Ben & Jerry’s responsibility for its Israeli franchise’s selling ice cream in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, and does not even mention the settlements or the use of Jewish-only roads to transport the company’s products.
Ben & Jerry’s assures us it is “keenly aware of how complex the situation can be”. The “situation” is not complex. This is a military occupation and a criminal enterprise of settler-colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, now in its 49th year.
Members of the Company management and Board of Directors delegation who visited the region are not unobservant or unethical people. They are aware of international law and they know that Israel’s occupation will never be terminated, or substantially mitigated, by company-funded efforts at “cross-cultural understanding” or “sourcing from local Fair Trade farmers.”
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.
Center for Constitutional Rights defends criticism of Israel
The Center for Constitutional Rights released findings (on May 18th, 2015) regarding the increasing use of accusations of anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses to suppress speech critical of Israeli policy. 60 incidents were documented in the first 4 months of 2015 involving accusations of anti-Semitism made against students or faculty and 24 incidents involving accusations that students or faculty were “terrorists” or “supporters of terrorism,” based solely on speech critical of Israeli policy. This violates the free speech rights of students and scholars and undercuts the university as a place of debate and critical thinking, while also detracting from the fight against true anti-Semitism. The same day, Jewish Voice for Peace delivered a letter signed by over 250 academics to the U.S. State Department, asking it to revise its definition of anti-Semitism to prevent this charge being misused to silence critics of Israel.
Free Cone Day Actions – April 14th 2015
For the third consecutive year, volunteers engaged with people waiting in line at Ben & Jerry’s “Free Cone Day ” and handed out leaflets.
Here’s a report of actions at 18 scoop shop locations in 7 different States. Thousands of leaflets were distributed, and many people in line were surprised to learn about the occupation and our campaign and eager to find out more. This event is an ideal opportunity to let people know about the illegal occupation of Palestine and the oppression of Palestinians, and the illegal Jewish-only settlements where Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is being sold, thus helping to ‘normalize’ the occupation.
And here is a link to the Cantastoria, performed for waiting Free Cone devotees at the ‘Flagship’ Scoop Shop in Burlington, VT.