There is an international campaign to #boycottpillsbury. What’s the story?
In February of 2020, the United Nations published a list of companies violating Palestinian rights like facilitating the construction, expansion or maintenance of Israeli settlements or the demolition of Palestinian housing and property. The United Nations named General Mills, a Minnesota-based corporation, as one of seven United States businesses violating international law by operating on occupied Palestinian territories. According to the report, General Mills is operating a Pillsbury factory in Atarot Industrial Zone, an illegal Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem illegally annexed after the 1967 war. The operation of this Pillsbury factory has displaced, stifled, and harmed local Palestinian land, livelihoods, and lives. It violates international law by exploiting land, water, and other resources belonging to the Palestinian people.
General Mills has endorsed the United Nations Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights and stated “respect for human rights is fundamental” to running its business. However, by operating its Pillsbury factory in an illegal Israeli settlement, not only is General Mills complicit in Israel’s occupation and annexation of the West Bank, it is also profiting from apartheid.
The UN Report
On February 12, 2020, the United Nations Human Rights office issued a report on business activities related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The report was submitted in response to the request made by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Paragraph 17 of Resolution 31/36, adopted by the Human Rights Council on March 24, 2016.
The report sets out a list of activities that raise particular human rights concerns referred to as “listed activities”. General Mills was named as one of seven United States companies violating Palestinian human rights for its use of natural resources, in particular water and land, for business purposes as indicated by listed activity (g).
Listed activity (g) covers the use of natural resources, in particular water and land, for business purposes. Listed activity (g) is considered to include business enterprises that are physically located on land in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in addition to those that benefit commercially from the use of natural resources located in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The report references a number of resolutions, like A/HRC/37/39 and A/HRC/22/36. A/HRC/37/39 discusses the Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights which sets out that all companies, regardless of size, industry, location, ownership or legal structure, have a responsibility to conduct due diligence to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their adverse human rights impacts. In accordance with the Guiding Principles, businesses operating in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have a responsibility:
(a) To avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur; and,
(b) To seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.
“Businesses play a central role in furthering the establishment, maintenance and expansion of Israeli settlements. They are involved in constructing and financing settlement homes and supporting infrastructure, providing services to the settlements, and operating out of them. In doing so, they are contributing to Israel’s confiscation of land, facilitate the transfer of its population into the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and are involved in the exploitation of Palestine’s natural resources.”
The above quote from A/HRC/37/39 directly applies to the General Mills Pillsbury factory operating in Atarot Industrial Zone, an illegal Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem.
In response to this report, numerous coalitions have been organizing to boycott and pressure the listed corporations into abiding by international human rights law — and to respect the land and human rights of the Palestinian people. One of the actions is the #Boycott Pillsbury campaign, which is being led by a multiethnic, multi-faith, and diverse coalition of organizations advocating for Palestine in unison. American Muslims for Palestine, a national education and advocacy organization for Palestine, is a leading coalition member. AMP-MN, American Muslims for Palestine’s Minnesota Chapter, has spearheaded this awareness campaign, as the Pillsbury corporation is based in its state, Minnesota. Here is a full list of the coalition members:
- Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign
- QPIN Quaker Palestine Israel Network
- Sacramento Regional Coalition for Palestinian Rights
To pressure General Mills to close the Pillsbury factory operating in an illegal Israeli settlement, the campaign has been asking people to
- Boycott Pillsbury products
- Ask grocery stores to stop shelving Pillsbury products
- Sign Jewish Voices for Peace’s petition
- Email General Mills’ CEO telling him to close the factory.
The Bake for Palestine Challenge
AMP-MN recently hosted a “Bake for Palestine” challenge (see Challenge Flyer and Challenge Video) to help raise awareness about the campaign. Community members were encouraged to bake something this holiday and winter season without using any Pillsbury products and post their creations online with the hashtags #BoycottPillsbury and #NoDoughForTheOccupation. Thirty people of all ages, faiths, and from all over the county participated in this challenge to help raise awareness about the campaign.
To wrap this event up, AMP-MN hosted a Facebook Live on December 27, 2020 to discuss the campaign and origins of the Bake for Palestine Challenge.
While the focus has recently been on the holiday and winter season, the campaign will not end with the season. AMP-MN is looking forward to continuing its work on this campaign until meaningful change is brought about. Keep an eye out for more events around this campaign. Get involved and help work towards closing down all businesses violating Palestinian human rights, starting with General Mills’ illegal Pillsbury factory.