August 4, 2021 — New York
Ben & Jerry’s franchisees in the United States are calling on the company to “re-examine and withdraw” its decision to stop selling its ice cream in the West Bank and its threat to discontinue operations in Israel.
“Those who feel so strongly about Israel that they want to boycott it or some part of the territory it administers are free to do so. They cannot, however, do that at our expense,” the franchisees write in their letter to top Ben & Jerry’s executives, explaining the decision’s harmful impact on them personally and their businesses.
The franchisees who signed the letter operate 30 Ben & Jerry’s stores with a total revenue of $23.3 million, and have a cumulative 250 years of partnership with the company. They had approached American Jewish Committee (AJC), the global Jewish advocacy organization, for assistance with preparing the letter sent today to Ben & Jerry’s CEO, Director of Social Mission, Director of Global Retail Operations, and Head of U.S. Retail and Global Strategy.
“We are proud to be part of a company that highlights values as a part of its mission,” the letter states, but “there is a danger that the pursuit of social justice will descend into political correctness or result in the adoption of overly simplistic solutions by people who share a single view of the world that misconstrue complex problems in which multiple claims of justice are implicated. The imposition of such narrow prescriptions does not advance social justice, or the pursuit of a values led business in any meaningful way.”
The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is “complex,” with “multiple and conflicting claims of justice made” and “multiple historical narratives and causes for the conflict’s perpetuation,” write the franchisees. “Any reasonable solution must acknowledge these multiple claims and deal with them as a whole. Singling out one set of claims and one narrative as the correct one is fine for propagandists, but it does not advance social justice as we see it.”
Several of the letter’s signatories serve or have served on the company’s Franchise Advisory Council, and pointed out in the letter that they had been assured that Ben & Jerry’s “considered the impact to the franchisees very seriously” prior to the company’s announcement.
However, the franchisees point out that the decision to terminate the contract with the Ben & Jerry’s licensee in Israel “has imposed, and will continue to impose, substantial financial costs on all of us. More importantly, the controversy your recent actions have brought upon our local businesses has had an adverse effect on the value of our independently owned franchises and investments,” the franchisees write in their letter.
Emphasizing the adverse impact, they add that “friends and family, neighbors and other businesses we work with have shamed us personally for doing business with not just a company that purposefully draws controversy, but with one that continues to consider the calculated negative affect on its franchisees as acceptable collateral damage.”
AJC Chief Legal Officer Marc D. Stern praised the franchisees for their honesty and passion in directly communicating their concerns.
“Tagging one side with all responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may make self-described social justice advocates proud, but it advances neither peace nor justice,” Stern wrote in a letter to the editor regarding the Ben & Jerry’s decision, published in The New York Times today.