The Jewish co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s have written an op-ed saying they “unequivocally support” the company’s decision to stop selling ice cream in the West Bank to boycott Israeli settlements.
Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of the ice cream chain in 1978 and sold to British conglomerate Unilever in 2000, praised the actions of the company they founded in an article on Wednesday for The New York Times.
The opinion comes after axios reported that the Israeli government has formed a special task force to pressure the ice chain to reverse its decision.
The boycott has also sparked opposition from members of the Jewish community in the US, as franchisees in Manhattan pledged to donate to Israel and cities on New York’s Long Island imposed their own ban on the company.
Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield co-founded the ice cream chain in 1978 and sold it to British conglomerate Unilever in 2000.
They praised the actions of the company they founded in an article for The New York Times on Wednesday
Ben & Jerry’s announced last week it would no longer produce ice cream for Israeli settlements in occupied land
An Israeli flag is seen on a van outside Ben & Jerry’s factory in Be’er Tuvia
“We are the founders of Ben & Jerry’s. We are also proud Jews. It’s part of who we are and how we’ve identified ourselves throughout our lives. As our company began to expand internationally, Israel was one of our first overseas markets. We were then, and still are, supporters of the State of Israel,” Cohen and Greenfield wrote.
“But it is possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we have opposed the policies of the US government.”
Cohen and Greenfield continued, “As such, we unequivocally support the company’s decision to end operations in the Occupied Territories, which is considered an illegal occupation by the international community, including the United Nations.”
The businessmen noted that they no longer have control over the company’s operations, but praised Ben & Jerry’s for the “extremely brave” decision, saying the company is “on the right side of history.”
Ending the sale of ice cream in the Occupied Territories is one of the most important decisions the company has made in its 43-year history, they wrote.
Cohen and Greenfield continued, “While it no doubt knew the response would be swift and strong, Ben & Jerry’s has taken the step of aligning its business and operations with its forward-thinking values.”
“Our support for the company’s decision is neither contradictory nor anti-Semitic. In fact, we believe this act can and should be seen as advancing the concepts of justice and human rights, core tenets of Judaism.”
The co-founders noted that Ben & Jerry’s has clearly decided to discontinue sales in the territories Israel occupies – not the nation of Israel itself.
“The decision outside Israel’s democratic borders is not a boycott of Israel,” they wrote. “Ben & Jerry’s statement did not endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”
Cohen and Greenfield added: “As Jewish supporters of the State of Israel, we fundamentally reject the idea that it is anti-Semitic to question the policies of the State of Israel.”
As noted by Axios, the Israeli government is concerned that other companies will now make the same distinction between Israel and the West Bank settlements.
in his pronunciation, the company had said it would be “inconsistent” with its values of selling ice cream “in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
“While Ben & Jerry’s is no longer sold in the OPT, we will remain in Israel through another arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we are ready,” the company said.
The company had also announced in the statement that it would not renew its licensing agreement with the Israeli company that produces and distributes the ice cream in Israel.
Board chairman Anuradha Mittal responded Tuesday for the first time since Ben & Jerry’s announced it would stop selling ice cream in the West Bank, rejecting calls the decision was anti-Semitic.
“I am proud of @benandjerrys for taking a stance to end the sale of its ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Mittal tweeted.
This action is not anti-Semitic. I am not anti-Semitic. The vile hatred thrown at me does not intimidate me. Please work for peace – not for hate!’
Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli soldiers on Wednesday
Palestinian protesters on Wednesday demand that the Israeli army hand over the body of the man shot dead by Israeli forces on Tuesday evening in the village of Beita, in the occupied West Bank
Palestinian protesters watch Israeli soldiers during a protest against the killing of a Palestinian man by Israeli soldiers in Beita in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Saturday
A damaged car is seen after Israeli forces opened fire on the car and injured an 11-year-old child in Hebron, West Bank, on Wednesday.
The Israeli government has previously convinced Ben & Jerry’s not to take such a stance, but pressure from pro-Palestinian activists has increased during the recent fighting in Gaza, as noted by Axios.
Israel has even desperately tried to pressure Unilever to prevent the company from deciding to stop selling ice cream – but Ben & Jerry’s parent company said it was entitled under its corporate social responsibility policy.
Three quarters of Israeli parliament members on Wednesday called on Ben & Jerry’s to reverse its decision to stop selling ice cream in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and disputed East Jerusalem.
In a letter to the Vermont-based ice cream maker, lawmakers said they “stand together against the company’s outrageous actions.”
They called the decision “immoral and regrettable,” claimed it would harm hundreds of Jewish and Arab workers and violated an Israeli law banning settlement boycotts.
The letter was signed by 90 of the 120 members of the Knesset who cover almost the entire political spectrum. Arab parties and some moderate lawmakers refused to sign.
In New York City, the owner of a Ben & Jerry’s store on the Upper West Side was so angry with the decision that he promised to donate 10 percent of his proceeds to Israel, the New York Post reported.
Joel Gasman claims the decision has reduced sales in West 104th Street and Broadway stores.
“We couldn’t sit back and watch without saying anything,” Gasman told the outlet. “It certainly hurt our bottom line and our total retail value. We were afraid of customer boycotts. We still do.’
He added that online trolls have started giving his franchise bad reviews online simply because of the company’s business stance.
In the Long Island town of North Hempstead, local officials have torn Ben & Jerry’s decision as “dangerous and anti-Israel.” The island now reported.
In 2017, the city unanimously passed local laws that prevented it from collaborating with companies participating in the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.
“North Hempstead’s anti-BDS legislation ensures that taxpayers’ money is never used to do business with or support a company that boycotts Israel,” said Judi Bosworth, North Hempstead Supervisor.
North Hempstead is a community of unity and inclusion. We remain committed to the fight against intolerance and we remain unwavering in our condemnation of this BDS movement.”