I like ice cream. My health professionals would argue that I probably like ice cream a little more than I should, and it is much to their chagrin that I am able to walk into any ice cream parlor or grocery of my choosing and enjoy my favorite frozen dairy treat. And so, it is from this completely non-political perspective that I open this essay sharing my true sadness that anyone would deny this simple pleasure to another human being.
Over the years, I have tried to present politically controversial topics from a variety of perspectives, bringing opinions from both the left and the right while attempting to keep my own opinions to myself. While I am providing below a variety of such articles and statements from across the spectrum on the Ben & Jerry’s situation, I find the whole situation so disconcerting that my bias will likely be evident.
Let’s start with the facts as I understand them: In 2000, Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry’s, which retained an independent board empowered to make culture and social-mission decisions as part of the agreement. This board has been pressured for years to boycott Israel, and last week, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would discontinue sales of its ice cream in “occupied Palestinian Territory.”
The blowback has been tremendous. We are seeing boycotts of Ben & Jerry’s stores and products. We are seeing kashrut organizations considering action. We are seeing legal proceedings against the company by franchise owners and calls to state governments with anti-BDS legislation asking for Unilever to be put on “Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel” lists so that state funds cannot be invested in it. We are seeing Israel work on creating a legal workaround to continue selling product.
Who are the likely winners and losers of the Ben & Jerry’s announcement?
- Those who believe that this boycott will bring positive change in the region will view this boycott as a positive step and look for more boycotts to follow.
- At the end of the day, I think that Unilever will end up being the biggest loser. I have seen estimates of hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, being shifted out of Unilever from state pension funds alone.
- Franchise owners: The company made this decision unilaterally, which directly affects individual stores and its franchise owners. Stores in largely Zionist areas, like New York City, will be especially impacted.
- Minimum-wage employees (like the Palestinian workers in Israeli ice cream factories) usually end up losing their jobs with successful boycott efforts.
- Ice cream lovers: We will miss you, Chunky Monkey ☹️.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to local activist Susannah Levin, a long-time contractor with Ben & Jerry’s who resigned from her position after the announcement. Here is a StandWithUs video interview with Susannah and local ardent Zionist Jack Rosenblum.
The following articles are in no particular order and as stated above, cover our wide spectrum of thought: I hope you find them informative and helpful in understanding the situation.
Power Up: Progressive Pro-Israel groups come out in support of Ben & Jerry's
Ben & Jerry’s board chair says ‘I am not anti-Semitic’ as Unilever disavows BDS movement
Ben & Jerry’s will regret the day they boycotted Israel
Left-wing Israeli academics show solidarity with Ben & Jerry’s
J Street – What you need to know about the Ben & Jerry’s Israel debate
NYC Based Gristedes Supermarkets to Reduce Space for Ben & Jerry’s Products
Statement by Ben & Jerry’s
Exposing Anuradha Mittal, the Jew-hater who pushed Ben & Jerry’s to boycott Israel StandWithUs Responds to NYT op-ed by Founders of Ben & Jerry’s
Statement by founders Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield
Letter from Consulate General of Israel New York
Editorial republished in the Albany Times Union
Background piece by Jewish Federations of North America
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