Liberal students want to ban liberal Ben & Jerry’s from campus over Israeli ties

Students at Vassar College put forth a resolution on Monday urging their school to cut ties with “Ben & Jerry’s” because of the company’s “contractual relationship with an Israeli franchise that manufactures ice cream.”

“Despite the company’s Social Mission and history of supporting progressive causes, Ben & Jerry’s continues to tie its franchise to these illegal settlements. In short, while apartheid ensues in historic Palestine, Ben & Jerry’s ‘peace & love’ ice cream continues to pass through Israeli checkpoints, and be transported on Jewish-only roads to be sold in Jewish-only settlements,” the Vassar Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Coalition (VBDSC) wrote in its resolution.

If passed, the resolution would prohibit Vassar student organizations from using school funds to purchase Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for social events.

For many years, Ben & Jerry’s has stood as a beacon of social justice, promoting their brand with “peace, love, and ice cream.” But now, after alleged operations in Israel have been exposed, the company is struggling to maintain its appeal among progressives, despite going so far as to name an ice cream flavor after Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

VBDSC accused the popular ice cream company of conducting business in the occupied territories of West Bank and East Jerusalem, and operating a manufacturing facility on dispossessed land, causing members to believe the company is taking economic advantage of a broken political system.

However, Ben & Jerry’s published a statement in 2015 in response to earlier attacks, claiming it had “no economic interest in the occupied territories.” In fact, the company denied accusations that it operated business facilities in occupied territories at all.

“The manufacturing facility and two scoop shops are located outside the occupied territories, just south of Tel Aviv,” the 2015 statement said, contradicting VBDSC’s accusations.

Student groups from several other universities have signed a letter to Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim demanding her company cease all business operations in Israeli settlements. The letter, written by a group known as “Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel,” calls Ben & Jerry’s “a corporate beneficiary of Israel’s military and economic domination.”

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“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 letter states.

The letter was signed by eleven university student groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine groups at the University of California San Diego, the University of Houston, the University of New Mexico, and Rutgers University.

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Some student governments have passed divestment resolutions over the past several months but Vassar appears to be the first to urge administrators to ban Ben & Jerry’s on campus.

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