Photo Credit: Helen Alfvegren; Nancy Anne L. Merolle
Ben & Jerry's ice cream vs. Vermont Abenaki brave from the Elnu Tribe

More than one thousand Israeli University students, writing on behalf of Students for Justice in America (SJA), this week petitioned Ben & Jerry’s Board Chairperson Anuradha Mittal demanding that Vermont-based ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s immediately evacuate its factories and headquarters from “illegally occupied” land belonging to the Abenaki nation in Vermont.

The Abenaki are an indigenous nation of the northeastern woodlands of Canada and the United States. They speak Algonquian and belong to the Wabanaki Confederacy. The Eastern Abenaki language was predominantly spoken in Maine, while the Western Abenaki language was spoken in Quebec, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

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The Israeli students say Ben & Jerry set up its corporation on three New England properties that once belonged to North American indigenous tribes, with the idea of holding Mittal, who is also the founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute for human rights, to the same ethical standards she and her board at Ben & Jerry are holding Israeli franchise holder Avi Zinger. It’s simple math: Zinger is selling to half a million Jews that Ben & Jerry wants to uproot from their legally acquired land in Judea & Samaria and until then, no ice cream for them; so, the SJA wants Ben & Jerry’s to be uprooted from the occupied territories of Vermont.

I have to say, this is what we call August news, the cucumber season, the silly season, and I for one can’t have enough of it.

According to SJA, the Ben & Jerry’s headquarters and factories are located on land taken from the Abenaki who lived on these lands continuously for thousands of years before it was taken by European settlers through war crimes that included mass murder, burning, and spreading smallpox, typhus, and influenza.

In 1614, Thomas Hunt captured 24 Abenaki people and took them to Spain, where they were sold into slavery. During the European colonization of North America, the Abenaki’s land was located between the new colonies of England in Massachusetts and the French in Quebec. Since the European sides never settled their territorial boundaries, they kept fighting over it, with the Abenaki allied with the French: better food than what those English ate (are you kidding me?), and also, Louis XIV designated Abenaki Chief Assacumbuit a member of the French court.

The Third Abenaki War (1722–25) broke when a French Jesuit missionary named Sébastien Rale got the Abenaki to halt the spread of Yankee settlers on their land. When the Massachusetts militia tried to arrest Rale, the Abenaki raided the settlements at Brunswick, Arrowsick, and Merry-Meeting Bay. The Massachusetts government declared a war of retaliation and bloody battles were fought at Norridgewock in 1724, and the upper Saco River in 1725. Peace conferences in Boston and Casco Bay ended the war, but the Abenaki, who were transferred to the banks of the St. Francis River, never gave up ownership of their US lands, where Ben & Jerry’s makes its ice cream and conspires antisemitic plots.

SJA’s letter challenges the Vermont corporation on its hypocrisy, stating that “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 new student initiative and letter are supported by Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, a Tel-Aviv-based human rights organization dedicated to safeguarding the lives of the Jewish community, seeking justice for the victims of terrorism worldwide, and combating BDS initiatives.

“Ben & Jerry’s blatant hypocrisy has now been revealed by these Israeli students,” said Shurat HaDin president, Nitsana Darshan Leitner. “It is a corporation led by a BDS extremist, which has hijacked the entire company and manipulated its so-called ‘core values’ to fit her own anti-Israel agenda.”

“The company was active in the Jewish State for decades, setting an example for Jewish and Arab co-existence and nothing bothered Ben & Jerry’s until Mittal decided to impose her antisemitic agenda on the company,” Darshan Leitner added. “The new SJA campus group is determined to show that the BDS movement attempts to target Jews in Israel for alleged human rights violations and crimes that they themselves are committing in their own communities. Ben and Jerry’s speaks with forked tongue. It’s time for Ben and Jerry’s to set an ethical example and get off its stolen Abanaki land in Vermont.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.