Hage: A lesson in social responsibility for “Vermont’s Finest”

Editor’s note: Mark Hage is an activist with Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (www.vtjp.org). He lives in Montpelier.

Here was my morning surprise on Thursday, June 27. The Israeli press had reported that McDonald’s franchise in Israel refused an invitation from a mall developer to open a branch in Ariel, an illegal, Jewish-only settlement in the occupied West Bank.

When asked why, McDonald’s said straight out that refusing to operate in the West Bank had always been its policy.

This raises the question: When will Ben & Jerry’s take a page from McDonald’s, and announce that its Israeli franchise, too, will refuse to sell in Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory?

For “Vermont’s Finest,” such a move will require sounding a righteous retreat, because its franchise in Israel is already selling and marketing in the settlements. Ben & Jerry’s social mission, with its commitment to peace and justice, has not been a firewall against commercial complicity with Israel’s illegal settlement regime as one might assume.

Israeli Jews who steal Palestinian land and live like lords on that land in violation of international law crave fine ice cream as much as the rest of us. Those with a taste for American fast food would like the privilege, I imagine, of being able to order a Big Mac with fries at a settlement venue, rather than having to drive to Tel Aviv for the pleasure.

McDonald’s won’t oblige them; Ben & Jerry’s will.

BDS activists worldwide have scored a series of victories against multinational companies embedded in or doing business with the settlements. McDonald’s has deftly sidestepped that fate. What about Ben & Jerry’s?


The owner of McDonald’s franchise in Israel, Omri Padan, is one of the founders of Peace Now, an Israeli organization opposed to its government’s settlement project in thOccupied Palestinian Territority. As far back as 1998, Padan told the newspaper Ha’aretz that he had no intention of opening a McDonald’s beyond the “Green Line” (Israel’s 1967 borders), asserting, “I have the privilege of not needing to compromise on my principles.”

But there are more than principles at play here. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, launched in 2005, has drawn extensive attention to the settlements — their racist policies, land and water crimes, human rights violations, and the military violence and corporate collusion that sustain them.

BDS activists worldwide have scored a series of victories against multinational companies embedded in or doing business with the settlements. McDonald’s has deftly sidestepped that fate. What about Ben & Jerry’s?

Earlier this year, the company became the focus of a homegrown BDS campaign, spearheaded by Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel. But VTJP is not calling for a boycott of the company at this time. Instead, we are urging people of conscience to let the company know that its business in the settlements is wrong. And it must stop. Now.

A first step toward this end would be for the company, with its ethical standards and progressive politics, to issue a public statement taking a stand against selling and investing in the settlements.

Thousands in the United States and abroad have rallied to VTJP’s campaign. Ben & Jerry’s, to its credit, is taking the matter seriously, is talking with us directly, and evaluating how to respond.

For our part, we will continue to urge the company to cease compromising its principles in Israel/Palestine and to terminate its business in Israel’s illegal settlements.

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  • This statement needs review:

    “Ariel, an illegal, Jewish-only settlement in the occupied West Bank.”

    a) Is it illegal?

    The only crime that could be considered is …, what ? There is a great debate whether the civilian residency of Jews in Judea and Samaria contravenes any article of the Geneva Accords but the Levy Report has resolved all those issues in line with the opinions of the former Int’l Court of Justice in Hague, Stephen Schwebel, as well as former dean of Yale Law School, Eugene Rostow and more than a dozen other leading international law scholars.

    And consider: are Arab settlements in Israel “illegal” then?

    b) Has this writer any idea how many Arab communities are “Arabs-only”? Or that the only genuine “apartheid-roads”, for example, are those Jews are prohibited from driving on?

    c) and as regards, “occupied”, well, I am occupying myself with writing this comment and I ma occupying a seat to do so. Is that “illegal” or “wrong”? Not every “occupation” is necessarily bad. When Jordan illegally occupied Judea and Samaria, who complained? Now that Israel, is an act of defense against aggression, administers portions of its original League of Nations guaranteed Jewish national home, where Jews were awarded the right of “close settlement”, Mark Hage’s rant is quite out of line, as is his call for companies such as Ben & Jerry to cease business with Jews just because they are Jews with full rights in their homeland.

    If he is truly concerned about ethics and morality, his radical progressive ideological orientation which ignores the complexities and the truths about the conflict is neither politic or just.

  • Karl Riemer

    “occupied West Bank” is Jordanian terminology and Arab ideology. It describes the part of Israel that Jordan briefly occupied west of the Jordan River. Judea and Samaria are occupied territories, that much is true. They are occupied by Palestinian Arabs, who have lived under many, many regimes through the years. That land has now reverted to its rightful position in the world. It is Israel.

    • Just to clarify. The terms “Judea” and “Samaria” were the official geographical names of the areas as set out in the UN Partition recommendation of November 29, 1947. “West Bank” does not appear. It was inaugurated by the Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan (the Hashemites, by the way, originate in Saudi Arabia) in April 1950 when, as an illegal occupier, the regime then compounded its illegality and declared the annexation of the “West Bank” to the “East Bank”.

      Palestinianism is a nationalism of inventivity.

  • Peter Liston

    The United Nations has consistently upheld the view that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is illegal.

    The World Court has consistently maintained that the Israeli occupation is illegal.

    There isn’t a country outside of Israel itself that supports this illegal settlement activity.

    The only country in the world that believes that the occupation is legal is the country that is doing the occupying.

    The settlements are expanding every single day. This is clearly a violation of international law and it’s a major violation of human rights.

    • The UN’s Human Rights Council members include:
      Angola 2013
      Argentina 2015
      Austria 2014
      Benin 2014
      Botswana 2014
      Brazil 2015
      Burkina Faso 2014
      Chile 2014
      Congo 2014
      Costa Rica 2014
      Côte d’Ivoire 2015
      Czech Republic 2014
      Ecuador 2013
      Estonia 2015
      Ethiopia 2015
      Gabon 2015
      Germany 2015
      Guatemala 2013
      India 2014
      Indonesia 2014
      Ireland 2015
      Italy 2014
      Japan 2015
      Kazakhstan 2015
      Kenya 2015
      Kuwait 2014
      Libya * 2013
      Malaysia 2013
      Maldives 2013
      Mauritania 2013
      Montenegro 2015
      Pakistan 2015
      Peru 2014
      Philippines 2014
      Poland 2013
      Qatar 2013
      Republic of Korea 2015
      Republic of Moldova 2013
      Romania 2014
      Sierra Leone 2015
      Spain 2013
      Switzerland 2013
      Thailand 2013
      Uganda 2013
      United Arab Emirates 2015
      United States of America 2015
      Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 2015

      * The rights of membership to the Human Rights Council of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya were suspended by the General Assembly on 1 March 2011 and restored on 18 November 2011.

      Please, give me a break. This is a body you would trust to protect your human right?

      • Peter Liston

        I certainly wouldn’t trust Israel to protect human rights. They demolish private homes, destroy farmer’s crops, deny people the freedom to travel from their farm to the market. They arbitrarily detain and torture Palestinians.

        Amnesty International reported: “The Israeli army frequently used excessive, sometimes lethal force against demonstrators in the West Bank and civilians in border areas within the Gaza Strip.”

        The Red Cross has reported that the Israeli army deliberately target ambulances and prevent them from doing their job.

        In 2003 twelve ambulances were damaged in attacks by Israeli settlers and the Israeli military. Ambulances were denied or delayed access to sick or wounded civilians on 584 different occasions.

        Israel’s right wing is doing more to destroy the country than any outside group ever could.

  • Ian Stokes

    Apologists for the Israeli occupation of neighboring land since 1967 step on dangerous ground when they question the illegality of that occupation. The 4th Geneva Conventions form a large part of the basis for the determination of illegality. Was the Nazi occupation and colonization of France, Poland, Russia etc. legal? Was it OK to steal the land and property of people in those countries? The Geneva Conventions established after WW2 that military occupation and colonization and deportation based on racial criteria and ethnic cleansing are universally condemned. For that reason, the Nazi dream of a racially pure ‘Lebensraum’ stretching across Europe will not be repeated.

    • To Ian: we do not “step on dangerous ground” but respond not to “apologists for imperial Islamic conquests”, which you might be, but to reply to simple prevarications.

      As Bill has just noted, Jews did not claim the Rhineland and blow up Berlin coffee houses which then “caused” Germany to invade.. er, forget that, we didn’t have a country in 1939 so when they gassed us, we couldn’t even run back to our homeland because, despite the solemn decision of the League of Nations in 1922 to “reconstitute” (check the language if you think I’m misquoting, ok, I’ll save you the search: “Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country”), that is, to establish again, our state, we couldn’t because Gt. Britain illegally shut the doors of immigration and no one would listen to our legal claim against that betrayal of the Mandate.

      And so, we are not going to allow anyone to play with “international law” to either deny our rights or to award rights that don’t exist.

      And if there was any ethnic cleansing in Palestine, (a) how many Jews were left in Judea & Samaria after 1948 and how many Arabs left in Israel? (b) where did the Jews of Hebron, Gaza, Nablus, Jerusalem’s Old City – where they had been living for centuries – go? Already in 1929, Arabs wiped out some of those communities, the rest, including 4 kibbutzim in Etzion Bloc where over 100 were mowed down while “posing for a picture”, as the asked by the Arab aggressors, another by the Dead Sea and two moshavim north of Jerusalem. (c) how many Jews are members of the Jordanian Parliament and how many Arabs are member of the Knesset? Judges of the Supreme Court?

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