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Ben & Jerry’s Embraces BDS’s Israel-Hating Agenda
Why the “woke” ice cream company deserves to be frozen out.
By Joseph Klein
Ben & Jerry’s, the “woke” leftwing ice cream company that the huge conglomerate Unilever purchased in 2000, has just caved to pressure from the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The company’s website posted an announcement on July 19th that Ben & Jerry’s would be ending all sales in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and East Jerusalem. “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT),” the announcement stated.
Israel’s enemies applauded the decision but did not think it went far enough.
“Ben & Jerry’s, a leading socially responsible international company, is finally bringing its policy on Israel’s regime of oppression against Palestinians in line with its progressive positions on Black Lives Matter and other justice struggles,” BDSmovement.net tweeted. “We hope Ben & Jerry’s has understood that, in harmony with its social justice commitments, there can be no business as usual with apartheid Israel.”
Adalah Justice Project, a U.S.-based pro-Palestinian advocacy group, tweeted, “This BDS win is because of our people power. Thank you Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, Movement for Black Lives, and all the organizers behind this win. Our demand remains a complete disengagement from all business dealings with apartheid Israel. We applaud @benandjerrys decision to end business in the settlements. Israel a settler colonial state from the river to the sea. We won’t rest.”
Ben & Jerry’s social justice warriors are on the same page as BDS and its allies. Indeed, it turns out that Ben & Jerry’s leadership was not happy with the wording of the July 19th announcement that had been released in Ben & Jerry’s name without the Ben & Jerry’s social warriors’ prior approval.
What most disturbed Ben & Jerry’s leadership was the final paragraph of the announcement, which said: “Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.”
Ben & Jerry’s contract with the current Israeli manufacturer and distributor expires at the end of 2022.
Ben & Jerry’s leadership had wanted to issue its own statement that would have conspicuously left out any commitment to continue doing business inside Israel itself.
The ice cream maker’s parent Unilever removed any doubt regarding its own position on continuing to do business within Israel proper.
“We remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades,” Unilever said in a statement posted on its own website. “Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000. As part of the acquisition agreement, we have always recognised the right of the brand and its independent Board to take decisions about its social mission. We also welcome the fact that Ben & Jerry’s will stay in Israel.”
This “independent” board of directors, which is in charge of Ben & Jerry’s “social mission” and brand integrity, was furious. In addition to releasing its own statement denouncing what Unilever had done in its wholly-owned subsidiary’s name, the Ben & Jerry’s board chair Anuradha Mittal fumed, “They are trying to destroy the soul of the company. We want this company to be led by values and not be dictated by the parent company.”
Mittal’s own soul, if she has one, is filled with hate for the Jewish state. “The catastrophe continues,” this anti-Semite tweeted on May 15, 2018. “#Nakba70 years later #palestine bleeds Boycott Divest Sanctions #israel,”
Contrary to the social justice “values” that Mittal and her Ben & Jerry’s comrades claim to prioritize above all else, a publicly traded company such as Unilever has a fiduciary duty to its shareholders to maximize the value of the entire company enterprise. Israel is an important market for Unilever products, including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Refusing to sell this ice cream to Israeli residents would cut into its subsidiary’s profits due to the lost sales resulting from the BDS-style boycott. Sales will also drop outside of Israel because of consumers who decide not to buy Ben & Jerry’s products in sympathy with the Jewish state.
Ben & Jerry’s is already beginning to suffer a serious backlash.
“The boycott against Israel – a democracy surrounded by islands of terrorism – reflects a total loss of way,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said. “The boycott does not work and will not work, and we will fight it with full force.”
Prime Minister Bennett took the fight against Ben & Jerry’s BDS-style action to its parent company, Unilever. He warned Unilever of “serious consequences, legal and otherwise” and that Israel “will act aggressively against all boycott actions directed against its citizens.”
The Israeli Ambassador to the United States and to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, sent an urgent letter to 35 governors of various U.S. states in which there are laws against BDS and against the boycott of Israel. The letter called on the governors to take action against Ben & Jerry’s under these state laws enacted in recent years.
Ambassador Erdan wrote in his letter: “As Arab nations cancel their decades long boycott of the Jewish state and sign peace agreements with Israel, and cultural and economic cooperation in our region is growing, American companies with radical ideological agendas cannot be allowed to go against the policy of the United States and act against normalization and peace.”
The Coalition for Jewish Values has organized an online petition on Change.org to boycott Ben & Jerry’s ice cream products. The petition states that “the company’s decision will perpetuate malicious, ahistorical notions and fuel what is already rampant Jew-hatred in the United States and around the world. In response to Ben & Jerry’s decision to participate in an anti-Semitic boycott, we refuse to purchase any of the company’s products until it abandons this inhuman policy.”
Thousands of people have already signed this petition, including yours truly.
Kosher supermarkets in the U.S. have decided that they will remove Ben & Jerry’s ice cream products from their freezers.
Morton Williams, a major supermarket chain in the New York City area, is cutting back on its business relationship with Ben & Jerry’s. Morton Williams’ co-owner Avi Kaner tweeted, “Our supermarkets have taken action against Ben & Jerry’s, which is boycotting Jewish communities that are at the center of a territorial dispute in Israel, including the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem – inhabited by Jews for over 3,000 years.”
Ben & Jerry’s supports all kinds of leftwing progressive causes, including the Black Lives Matter movement. The company claims that it seeks to “eliminate injustices in our local, national, and international communities by integrating these concerns in our day-to-day business activities.”
However, Ben & Jerry’s does not consistently walk its lofty talk. Israel is a convenient target, given the left’s love affair with the Palestinians and hatred for the Jewish state. Yet Ben & Jerry’s seems to have no problem doing business in Thailand, where activists demonstrating against the government’s authoritarian rule have been arbitrarily arrested and harassed. Ben & Jerry’s also had no problem doing business in Russia, until the business venture turned out to be unprofitable. No worries about injustices in those countries.
The “woke” company also slow-walked its response to the inhumane conditions under which migrants, many of them in the country illegally, toiled at dairy farms supplying Ben & Jerry’s with milk. More than two years after protesters converged outside Ben & Jerry’s stores in 16 cities on International Workers’ Day 2015 the company finally signed an agreement with a migrant advocacy group to ensure improved conditions for the migrants working at its suppliers’ dairy farms. It took that long for the socially conscious ice cream company to rediscover its “values.”
It’s time to melt Ben & Jerry’s to the ground through consumer boycotts and legal action by states with anti-BDS laws. Companies that engage in actions designed to significantly damage Israel’s economy need to reap the whirlwind.
Image Credit: © Jiawangkun