Open letter by Ben & Jerry’s franchisees declaring financial loss suffered as a result of boycott announcement and call to rescind decision

Jewish Journal

Several Ben & Jerry’s franchisees in the United States sent a letter to the company calling on them to rescind their July 19 decision to stop doing business in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

The letter was signed by franchisees located in Seattle, Boston, San Francisco and St. Louis, among other major cities, that operate 30 stores and generate $23.3 million in revenue combined. They stated: “There is a danger in 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.” They cited the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an example, arguing that there are “multiple and conflicting claims of justice made” and that any solution to the conflict should address those claims.

“The decision that has been made to terminate the contract with Ben & Jerry’s licensee in Israel not only distorts the situation on the ground—it has imposed and will to continue to impose, substantial financial costs on all of us,” the letter stated. “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 added that their respective families and communities “have shamed us personally for doing business not just with a company that draws controversy, but with one that continues to consider the calculated negative affect on its franchisees as acceptable collateral damage.”

They concluded the letter by stating: “Those who feel 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. We believe this decision needs to be re-examined and withdrawn.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) lauded the letter, noting that they aided the franchisees in drafting the letter. AJC Chief Legal Officer Marc D. Stern wrote in a letter to The New York Times responding to the Ben & Jerry’s co-founders’ Times op-ed defending the company’s decision that the op-ed “wholly ignores, for example, several peace plans put on the table by Israel, endorsed by the United States and rejected by the Palestinian leadership. 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 added that the co-founders argued that the company isn’t doing business in the West Bank, not with Israel as a whole; however, Stern noted that “The chair of the company’s board of directors has publicly said it wanted to boycott Israel but was overruled (wrongly she believed) by its parent company, Unilever, and now may do so only under unspecified arrangements. The failure of Ben and Jerry to address that reality fatally undercuts their argument.”

Jake Novak, the Broadcast Media Director for the Israeli Consulate General of New York, tweeted that the letter is “very, very important” because “franchisees often take their franchise owners to court over stuff like this. There are lawyers who specialize in these kinds of cases and win. This is a red flag for #Benandjerrys parent company.”

Sussex of Friends of Israel tweeted, “@benandjerrys threw the own partners under the bus with their discriminate boycott of Israel. Safe to say they aren’t happy….”