This article originally appeared in the print version of Women Against Military Madness Newsletter Vol 38, No 5, 2020.
Processed-food megacorporation General Mills, headquartered in Minnesota, is “heartbroken over the murder of George Floyd” according to its website, and has called for police reform. The corporation has a history of celebrating Martin Luther King with a holiday breakfast (since 1991), raising $6 million for the United Negro College Fund, and conducting an assertive racial equity program to attract and retain employees of color, including in managerial and board positions. But now it says it has more work to do and has embarked on community outreach programs in its “commitment to racial equity in being a force for good.” And, according to its website, it has a sense of “global responsibility” helping people and the planet with programs in other parts of the world, far from its Minneapolis corporate headquarters.
But apparently this corporate magnanimity and desire for racial equality does not extend to Palestinians. In February of 2020, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights listed General Mills among corporations that are in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemns Israeli settlement activity as illegal and demands that Israel cease all settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, which is where, in the Atarot Industrial Zone, General Mills manufactures frozen baked goods for its Pillsbury brand.
The Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq calls the Atarot settlement “the industrial key in Israel’s plan to permanently erase Palestine” and describes the issue as follows: “Israel, the Occupying Power, has systemically and unlawfully appropriated Palestinian public and privately owned land, exploiting Palestinian natural resources, while forcing the transfer of and creating coercive environments [sic] to forcibly displace the protected Palestinian population.* Such measures have enabled and enhanced the Israeli national and settler economy, at the expense of the Palestinian economy and the rights of Palestinians.”
The Atarot Industrial Zone is located north of Jerusalem, in the West Bank area known as “East Jerusalem,” which Israel illegally annexed in the aftermath of the 1967 war. An American Friends Service Committee investigative report explains that “the Pillsbury factory was built on land that belongs to Beit Hanina, a Palestinian town that Israel made into a neighborhood of Jerusalem and later split into two by the separation wall. Israel confiscated this land in 1970, as part of the largest confiscation of Palestinian land in the Jerusalem environs.”
On September 21, in defense of human rights and international law, local people gathered at General Mills world headquarters in Minneapolis for a rally, revealing that, despite its wholesome image, this corporation is complicit in racial inequity ⎯ toward Palestinians.
1* Under international law, an occupying party has to protect the occupied population.
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