By Alison Weir
The progressive organization Moveon is featuring an action alert that includes an endorsement of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, even though the company is the subject of three social justice campaigns against it: a boycott for its activities in the Palestinian territories and campaigns opposing its environmental and farmworkers practices in Vermont.
Ben & Jerry’s in Illegal Settlements
Peace and justice advocates are boycotting Ben & Jerry’s for selling its ice cream in illegal settlements on confiscated Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The groups point out that the ice cream is transported on Israeli-only roads and easily passes through Israeli military checkpoints where Palestinians are routinely humiliated and prevented from passing, sometimes lethally.
Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, which initiated the boycott, reports: “Since 2013, thousands of individuals and nearly 250 organizations in 20 countries have called on Ben & Jerry’s to stop sales to Israeli illegal settlements and to publicly oppose Israel’s occupation and settlements. They have refused to do so.”
“Dirty dairy” practices
Another group, the Organic Consumers Organization, has initiated a campaign against Ben & Jerry’s that states: “Ben & Jerry’s has done a brilliant job of selling consumers on the idea that the company cares about social justice, the environment, the climate, and its customers—the company even brags about its ‘Caring Dairy’ program…
“But behind that greenwashed façade lies the tale of a company that relies on a #dirtydairy industry that has poisoned Vermont’s waterways, that abuses animals, that is bankrupting farmers and is contributing to global warming by stripping the soil of its ability to draw down and sequester carbon.”
The organization’s website shows that almost 20,000 individuals have signed its petition calling for Ben & Jerry’s to “stop deceiving consumers and go organic.”
“Dangerous working conditions”
A third group, Migrant Justice, is asking Ben & Jerry’s to make good on its still-unfulfilled public commitment to the Milk with Dignity campaign to support Vermont farmworkers’ need for better working conditions.
The organization writes, “If there were an award for ‘greenwashing,'” it would go to Ben & Jerry’s, and states: “Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, right now, is not just packed full of chocolate, marshmallows, nuts and pretzels–it’s main ingredient–cream, is also made with wage theft, inhumane housing, and dangerous working conditions.”
The group reports that farmworkers have been alerting Ben & Jerry’s about these conditions for eight years.
The MoveOn action alert calls on people to “Join Ben & Jerry” in a campaign against money in politics. Individuals who chip in $15 or more are entered in a raffle “to win a year’s supply of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream!”
MoveOn, which reportedly has a membership of 8 million, has used Ben & Jerry endorsements in at least two previous action alerts (here and here) and perhaps more. Such alerts reinforce Ben & Jerry’s public image as an allegedly ethical, progressive organization and likely help its sales.
Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.