Ben & Jerry’s: Buying Almonds is Sooo Not Enough

-The BDS Committee, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine

In 2013, VTJP launched an international campaign calling on Ben & Jerry’s to end its Israeli franchise’s complicity with Israel’s illegal settlement regime in Occupied Palestine. While a great deal has happened since then, B&J’s “peace & love” ice cream, manufactured in Israel, is still being stocked in the supermarkets of Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank and party carts are still making their way over Jewish-only roads to Israeli-Jewish festivities in those same colonies.

Ben & Jerry’s in the U.S., which holds the contract with the Israeli franchise and is based in Vermont, responded with an initiative to “sustainably source” almonds purchased from Palestinian farmers. Concerning its franchise’s operations in Israel and Occupied Palestine, Ben & Jerry’s website page promises:

“to be a voice for positive change and a sensible approach to multicultural understanding and thriving communities.”

“Ben & Jerry’s sees its role in the Middle East as a company that remains committed to contributing resources to foster multicultural programs and values-led ingredient sourcing initiatives in the region.”

“The first phase of sustainably sourcing almonds from a Palestinian farmer cooperative has been realized, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the operation and growing its market base. “As a mission-led organization, we make values-based business decisions throughout our global business,” said Ben & Jerry’s Director of Social Impact, Rob Michalak. “Our linked-prosperity model offers a way to create benefits for these communities such as investing in local farmers and the manufacturer in the region.”

52 years (and counting) into the longest military occupation and colonization regime of modern times, Ben & Jerry’s almond sourcing initiative ain’t hardly the cure of the century. In the face of Israel’s depredations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza – the latter only 23 miles from the company’s factory in Israel – it is a minute, laughable, self-serving gesture.

Ben & Jerry’s continues to fly a “Peace & Love” flag over its Israeli operations in Jewish-only settlements, while Israel continues:

–killing and maiming peaceful demonstrators[1]

–confiscating land and diverting groundwater[2]

–demolishing houses[3]

–destroying village infrastructures,[4] schools[5] and playgrounds[6]

–shooting holes in water storage tanks[7]

–attacking hospitals, ambulances, and medical workers[8]

–arresting and imprisoning adults[9] and children,[10] often without charges

–supporting settler violence,[11] uprooting trees,[12] poisoning land and livestock[13]

–and what to us is most telling of all – Skunking.[14]

A brief note on Skunking. It began by simply draining raw Israeli sewage from hilltop settlements into Palestinian villages at the bottom of the hills. Pipe + gravity. Easy.

Next came Israeli occupation forces’ water-cannon trucks to spray shit-water onto and into Palestinian houses. Then Israeli scientists went to work to develop a super shit-water derivative.

A BBC reporter described its effects as follows:

“Imagine the worst, most foul thing you have ever smelled. An overpowering mix of rotting meat, old socks that haven’t been washed for weeks – topped off with the pungent waft of an open sewer. . .Imagine being covered in the stuff as it is liberally sprayed from a water cannon. Then imagine not being able to get rid of the stench for at least three days, no matter how often you try to scrub yourself clean.”

(Odortec, the Israeli company, is now marketing Skunk to law enforcement agencies worldwide, specifically, U.S. local police departments.)

Though “less lethal” than some other weapons, Skunk best demonstrates the attitude of Israelis and their government toward the Palestinian people. Bombs, bullets and white phosphorus are so…clean. We should just rub them in shit. Shit for the shit-eating. That’s what they deserve.

The mind boggles…and then loops around to Orwell’s narrative of the torture chamber in 1984 – a book written in 1948. Winston is strapped to a table in the feared Room 101, and O’Brien, his torturer, explains:

‘How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?’

Winston thought. ‘By making him suffer,’ he said.

‘Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation….

Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery is torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain.

There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy.

But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.’

Sound familiar?

If Ben & Jerry’s Peace & Love response is to buy almonds from Palestinian farmers to try to foster multi-cultural understanding, we say this is so not enough!