Israeli students claim that ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s is “illegally” occupying land in Vermont that once belonged to a Abenaki native American tribe and should practice what it preaches and immediately evacuate the properties.
A cheeky letter sent to B&J — signed by more than 1,000 Israeli students and academics affiliated with Students for Justice in America — accuses B&J of hypocrisy.
“We have concluded that your company’s occupation of the Abenaki lands is illegal and we believe it is wholly inconsistent with the stated values that Ben & Jerry’s purports to maintain. Ironically, in July of the last year you announced that you would discontinue the sale of your products in Israel because you object to the Jewish State allegedly occupying Palestinian territories,” the letter to B&J’s chairperson, Anuradha Mittal said.
The letter, provided to The Post, notes that B&J filed a lawsuit against its parent company, Univer, in an effort to block its sale of the Vermont-based brand’s Israel business to a local franchisee so ice cream could continue to be sold in the West Bank.
The new student initiative and letter is supported by Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, a Tel-Aviv based human rights organization dedicated to safeguarding the lives of the Jewish community and combatting the boycott, divestment and protest movement against the Jewish State.
“Ben & Jerry’s blatant hypocrisy has now been revealed by these Israeli students,” said Shurat HaDin president, Nitsana Darshan Leitner.
“Ben and Jerry’s speak with a forked tongue.”
The left-leaning ice cream brand had previously announced it would end sales of its products in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which critics said amounted to an economic boycott of Israel.
The fallout was severe, with states including New York withdrawing millions of dollars in pension investments from B&J’s parent company, Unilever. New York is prohibited by law from doing business with entities that participate in the BDS movement against Israel.
“Ben and Jerry’s has never even offered to provide compensation to this indigenous nation in Vermont,” the letter from the students’ group, which is a counterpoint to Students for Justice in Palestine, which promotes the BDS movement against Israel, said.
“Justice, morality and boycotts are not just slogans and antisemitic weapons for your food company to point at the Jewish community in Israel. Justice and morality must begin at home.”
The students demanded that B&J immediately evacuate the properties “it occupies” in South Burlington, Waterbury and Saint Albans and “return them to the Abenaki people”, adding, “your company has no right to these stolen territories.”
The State of Vermont recognized the Abenaki Nation in 2012.
“Vermont’s Native history started 12,900 years ago when people called the Paleo-Indians first moved into the land we now call Vermont. Since these earliest occupations nearly 13,000 years ago, Native communities have continually lived in Vermont. Native knowledge, experience, and traditions have deeply influenced many aspects of Vermont’s rich history,” the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs says on its website.
Ben & Jerry’s had no immediate comment.