On May 31 General Mills announced that it divested its 60% stake in its Israeli subsidiary. For the last two years the company has been targeted by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) over the fact that some of its Pillsbury products are manufactured in an illegal Israeli settlement.
General Mills’s statement doesn’t reference the BDS campaign and claims that the move simply reflects the company’s “strategic choices about where to prioritize our resources to drive superior returns.” Bodan Holdings, an Israel-based company who previously owned the other 40% of the business, will take over the entire operation. As AFSC points out on Twitter, it remains unclear whether Pillsbury products can still be made in the factory under General Mills’s license agreement.
“General Mills’ divestment shows that public pressure works even on the largest of corporations,” said AFSC’s Noam Perry in a statement. “With this move, General Mills is joining many other American and European companies that have divested from Israel’s illegal occupation, including Microsoft and Unilever just in the last couple of years. We call on all companies to divest from Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine, and from the apartheid system it is part of. We congratulate General Mills on this decision and hope this is the first step in cutting all its ties to Israeli apartheid and toward respecting universal human rights.”
Since 2002, General Mills has run a Pillsbury products in the Atarot Industrial Zone, a settlement that Israel illegally annexed during the 1967 war. A 2019 report on the settlement, put out by Al-Haq, documents how the factory impacts Palestinians still living in the area. “When they pour the flour [into the mixers which are outdoors], the flour comes into our house. Sometimes the bags of flour overflow into the house,” explained one resident. In 2020 the United Nations identified General Mills as one of the 112 companies that are violating international law by operating in the occupied territories.
.@GeneralMills’ Pillsbury factory in the Atarot Industrial Zone, an illegal Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem, is displacing, exploiting & stifling Palestinians—making it complicit in Israel's occupation & annexation of the West Bank. INFO THREAD! #PillsburyOutOfPalestine
— rachel and 0 others (@gaychelquacker) September 21, 2020
AFSC’s No Dough For the Occupation was backed by human rights organizations like American Muslims for Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as the Ainsworth United Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon. It was also endorsed by five members of the Pillsbury family, who published a Star Tribune op-ed in April 2021 calling for a boycott. “We take pride in seeing our family name associated with products sold around the world,” it reads. “But in these times we no longer can in good conscience buy products bearing our name.”
“As long as General Mills continues to profit from the dispossession and suffering of the Palestinian people, we will not buy any Pillsbury products,” it continues. “We call on General Mills to stop doing business on occupied land. And we call on all people of good conscience and all socially responsible organizations across the globe to join in boycotting Pillsbury products until General Mills stops this illegal and immoral practice.”
AFSC celebrated the announcement on social media. “General Mills’ divestment shows that public pressure works even on the largest of corporations,” wrote the group. “We call on all companies to divest from Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine, and from the apartheid system it is part of. We congratulate General Mills on this decision and hope this is the first step in cutting all its ties to Israeli apartheid and toward respecting universal human rights.”