Edited by: TJVNews.com
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is the latest prominent figure to join the movement to boycott Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after the company on Monday announced that it would be ending all sales in Judea and Samaria, caving to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as was reported by Israel National News.
“I can say I will not be eating anymore Cherry Garcia for a while,” said de Blasio in a video shared on social media.
He called the company’s decision “sad.”
“I don’t know them well but I’ve met them over the years and I think they’re good people, with good values,” de Blasio said. “But this is a mistake. They shouldn’t do this.”
INN reported that the mayor said that “BDS is a movement that will undermine peace in the Middle East.”
“It’s as simple as that,” he said. “You cannot have peace if you undermine the economic reality and create division. I believe it’s absolutely the wrong approach and I don’t think Ben and Jerry’s should be doing that.”
“They’ve done a lot of good in the world but they should stand back from this,” he added.
An online petition to boycott Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after it announced it was ending all sales in Judea and Samaria has garnered over 3,000 signatures in 16 hours, according to the INN report.
The Coalition for Jewish Values petition on change.org states, “We, the undersigned, condemn Ben & Jerry’s decision to end sales in Judea and Samaria, two areas that have been continuously in the possession of the Jewish people for nearly 4,000 years – since Abraham purchased the Cave of the Patriarchs.”
Remarking that Ben & Jerry’s decision to cave to the BDS movement by ending all sales in Judea and Samaria would serve to embolden anti-Jewish hate worldwide, the petition says 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.”
It adds, “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,” as was reported by INN.
As of Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. EST, the petition had received over 3,000 signatures in 16 hours.
“An Ice Cream company should be focused on making children of all backgrounds joyful. Not in the establishment nor reinforcement of systemic discrimination against children from a particular area or background; according to a selected and intolerant view,” said Rabbi Professor Alan Friedlander, one of the signers of the petition.
On Monday, Ben & Jerry’s announced: “Ben & Jerry’s will end sales of our ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
In a statement, the ice cream company said, “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
INN reported that Yesha Council chairman Yigal Dilmoni said: “The global Ben & Jerry’s company did not withstand the anti-Semitic pressure of the BDS organizations. I call on our friends, the friends of Judea and Samaria in the United States, to put economic pressure on them by taking their products out of stores until they back down from this unfortunate decision.”
The State Department refuses to directly condemn Ben & Jerry’s. Ned Price, State Department spokesman noted that this is a private company and therefore he would not comment on it. However, Price stated that alongside the Biden administration’s support for freedom of expression, he opposes the BDS movement, which unfairly discriminates against Israel, as was reported by INN.
“I condemn all anti-Israel and BDS activities. We will work with Israel against attempts to delegitimize it,” Price said.
INN also reported that sales of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel jumped 21% Tuesday, a day after the global company announced it would boycott Judea and Samaria.
Ben & Jerry’s Israel, which is licensed to produce the ice cream in Israel, has rejected the global corporation’s calls to pull its products from Jewish communities over the ‘green line.’
“Since the morning hours there has been a significant increase in sales of our ice cream–over 21% over sales on a normal day,” Ben & Jerry’s Israel said in a statement.
“Don’t stop!–We must put pressure on the Unilever Corporation, the owners of the global Ben and Jerrys, to turn” their decision around, the statement continued, as was reported by INN.
“We call on everyone to stand firm with us and with the hundreds of Israeli workers who could be affected by the global BDS pressures. As it was yesterday, so it is today–we will continue to sell in all of Israel and to all Israelis.”
INN reported that Ben & Jerry’s Israel, which operates out of Be’er Tuvia, will continue to hold the license to produce the ice cream in Israel until the end of 2022. Until then, Israelis living in Judea and Samaria will continue to find the sweet dessert in their stores.
Several kosher supermarkets in the United States announced that they would no longer stock Ben & Jerry’s products after the ice cream company announced that it would not allow its products to be sold in Judea and Samaria.
Glatt Express Supermarket, a store which serves the Jewish community of Teaneck New Jersey, announced on Facebook: “Due to the recent actions by Ben & Jerry’s, Glatt Express will no longer be carrying Ben and Jerry’s products. Am yisroel chai.”
INN reported that store owner Dani Secemski told the Jewish Link: “Food in general should not be politicized, especially in this way. Glatt Express will always stand with Israel…and we are looking forward to carrying other brands of ice cream.”
The Seasons chain of kosher supermarkets which operates in New York and New Jersey sent a message to its customers stating: “Seasons has removed all Ben and Jerry’s products from all its stores as a result of the ice cream maker’s decision to cease sales in parts of Israel. We stand with Israel. Always,” according to the INN report.
The board of directors of the Morton Williams Supermarkets, which has 15 shops in New York City, decided to reduce its stock of Ben & Jerry’s products by 70%,, stop advertising for Ben & Jerry’s and consign the rest of its stock of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to the “least desirable” parts of the freezer sections, the New York Post reported.
Aron’s Kissena Farms, a supermarket in Queens, New York, also announced that it would no longer stock Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, according to the INN report.
Kof-K, the kashrut certification organization which certifies Ben & Jerry’s, announced that it was preparing a response which would be released in the coming days.
Speaking to NBC News, Ben & Jerry’s chairman Anuradha Mittal said that a statement Monday by Ben & Jerry’s that it will no longer distribute its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” but will remain in Israel was released by the company’s owner, Unilever, without consulting with the ice cream maker’s board. She said that they had intended to put out a different statement that made no mention of committing to continue doing business with the Jewish state, according to Times of Israel report.
While many companies and countries have differentiated between Israel and its settlements in Judea and Samaria, a complete boycott of Israel by a major Western company has been almost unheard-of in recent years.
TOI reported that Mittal said the board had been pushing for years to stop selling its products in settlements and intended to release a different statement from the one Unilever put out. NBC, which reviewed the intended statement, said it made no mention of remaining in Israel and focused on Ben & Jerry’s commitment to social justice causes.
Mittal did not rule out the company doing business in Israel in the future with a different distributor but said such a decision would have to be agreed upon by the board and that Unilever had no right to make the commitment on behalf of Ben & Jerry’s, according to the TOI report.
Mittal accused Unilever, the European consumer-product giant that bought Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, of violating the purchase agreement that allowed the company to maintain control over its social mission, brand integrity and policies and implied that the decision to ignore the will of the board was racist and sexist, as was reported by TOI.
“I am saddened by the deceit of it,” Mittal told NBC News. “This is not about Israel; it is about the violation of the acquisition agreement that maintained the soul of the company,” Mittal said. “I can’t stop thinking that this is what happens when you have a board with all women and people of color who have been pushing to do the right thing.”
“The statement released by Ben & Jerry’s regarding its operation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (the OPT) does not reflect the position of the independent board, nor was it approved by the independent board,” said the board in a separate statement to NBC. “By taking a position and publishing a statement without the approval of the independent board on an issue directly related to Ben & Jerry’s social mission and brand integrity, Unilever and its CEO at Ben & Jerry’s are in violation of the spirit and the letter of the acquisition agreement.”
Mittal also said that the board had passed a resolution to end sales of Ben & Jerry’s products in Israeli settlements last July, but that the company’s CEO Matthew McCarthy, appointed by Unilever in 2018, “never operationalized it,” as was reported by TOI.
“They are trying to destroy the soul of the company,” Mittal said. “We want this company to be led by values and not be dictated by the parent company.”
Unilever, which has a very large presence in Israel, later released a separate statement expressing its commitment to its presence in Israel. It did not mention the dispute with the Ben & Jerry’s board, according to the TOI report.
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very complex and sensitive situation. As a global company, Unilever’s brands are available in more than 190 countries and in all of them, our priority is to serve consumers with essential products that contribute to their health, wellbeing and enjoyment,” Unilever said. “We remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades.”
“Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000. As part of the acquisition agreement, we have always recognized 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,” Unilever said.
The original statement put out by Unilever on behalf of Ben & Jerry said: “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
“We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year,” it 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,” the statement added.
Anuradha Mittal’s political proclivities however appear to be suspect, according to research by the Jewish Voice. She is the founder and director of the Oakland Institute, a self proclaimed independent policy think tank, however they consistently propagandize for Palestinian causes and provide spurious information about Israel.
Her name has also been attached to the radically left wing and notoriously anti-Israel organization Code Pink as well as the Jewish Voice for Peace that consistently spews forth vile anti-Israel propaganda. Ms. Mittal’s name is consistently found on anti-American and anti-Israel petitions alongside such infamous radicals as Angela Davis, Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, actress Jane Fonda, writer Eve Ensler, playwright Alice Walker and others of that ilk.
AP reported that the move by the Vermont-based ice cream company drew swift reproach from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former leader of the Judea and Samaria settlement movement who called it “an immoral decision and I believe that it will turn out to be a business mistake, too.”
Bennett said the Unilever ice cream brand had taken a “blatantly anti-Israel step” and that the government would act aggressively against any boycott aimed at its citizens.
The Israeli foreign ministry called Ben & Jerry’s decision “a surrender to ongoing and aggressive pressure from extreme anti-Israel groups” and the company was cooperating with “economic terrorism.”
“The decision is immoral and discriminatory, as it singles out Israel, harms both Israelis and Palestinians and encourages extremist groups who use bullying tactics,” the ministry said in a statement. It also called on Ben & Jerry’s to withdraw its decision.
The Ben & Jerry’s statement cited “the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
The company did not explicitly identify those concerns, but last month, a group called Vermonters for Justice in Palestine called on Ben & Jerry’s to “end complicity in Israel’s occupation and abuses of Palestinian human rights,” as was reported by the AP.
“How much longer will Ben & Jerry’s permit its Israeli-manufactured ice cream to be sold in Jewish-only settlements while Palestinian land is being confiscated, Palestinian homes are being destroyed, and Palestinian families in neighborhoods like Sheik Jarrah are facing eviction to make way for Jewish settlers?” the organization’s Ian Stokes said in a June 10 news release, as was reported by the AP.
In a Monday statement, the organization said Ben & Jerry’s actions did not go far enough.
“By maintaining a presence in Israel, Ben & Jerry’s continues to be complicit in the killing, imprisonment and dispossession of Palestinian people and the flaunting of international law,” said the Vermont group’s Kathy Shapiro, as was reported by the AP.
Time Magazine reported that Ben & Jerry’s, founded in Vermont in 1978, has a history of publicly embracing socially progressive causes, from same-sex marriage to the Black Lives Matter movement. When it was purchased by consumer goods giant Unilever two decades ago, Ben & Jerry’s insisted on keeping its own board and maintaining independence over its social mission and brand integrity.
Ben & Jerry’s took a stand against what it called the Trump administration’s regressive policies by rebranding one of its flavors Pecan Resist in 2018, ahead of midterm elections, as was reported by the AP.
The company said Pecan Resist celebrated activists who were resisting oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice. The AP reported that as part of the campaign, Ben & Jerry’s said it was giving $25,000 each to four activist entities.
Aida Touma-Sliman, an Israeli lawmaker with the Joint List of Arab parties, wrote on Twitter that Ben and Jerry’s decision Monday was “appropriate and moral.” She added that the “occupied territories are not part of Israel” and that the move is an important step to help pressure the Israeli government to end the occupation.
Some 700,000 Israeli settlers now live in Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem.
Israel in recent years has become a partisan issue in Washington, with many Democrats — particularly of the party’s progressive wing — growing increasingly critical over a number of Israeli policies, including settlement construction, and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s close ties with former President Trump, as was reported by the AP. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been an outspoken critic of Israel.
The AP reported that the BDS movement, a Palestinian-led movement that advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli institutions and businesses — applauded Ben & Jerry’s decision as “a decisive step towards ending the company’s complicity in Israel’s occupation and violations of Palestinian rights,” but called upon the company to do more.
“We hope that Ben & Jerry’s has understood that, in harmony with its social justice commitments, there can be no business as usual with apartheid Israel,” a statement read.
The Israeli government says the BDS movement masks a deeper aim of delegitimizing or even destroying the entire country.
On the Tuesday afternoon broadcast of the John Catsimatidis radio talk show on WABC in New York, the supermarket magnate and chairman of the Red Apple Group devoted the first portion of his program to a discussion of the Ben and Jerry’s controversy. Mr. Catsimatidis called the decision of the ice cream company to stop production of their product in Judea and Samaria a “stupid and immoral” one and suggested that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream may be removed from the stores that he owns.
In a statement sent to the media on Tuesday, Rabbi Aryeh Spero, the founder and director of the Conference of Jewish Affairs said that his organization along with millions of Jews worldwide, is “disgusted by the hypocrisy, cowardice, and anti-Semitism displayed by the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream company refusal to sell or produce their ice cream in the Jewish sections of Jerusalem and neighborhoods in the biblical regions of Judea and Samaria.
“Ben and Jerry’s has now become a leader of the boycott and disinvestment campaign against Israel, though Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and the only country in that entire region focused on preserving human rights and dignity. Singling out the Jewish people or the Jewish nation for boycott and disinvestment is blatant anti-Semitism and not social justice.
“What can be more hypocritical than a company such as Ben and Jerry’s producing and distributing its product in dozens of countries where there is no democracy, where people are killed because of their Jewish or Christian faith, and people are oppressed because of their differences, yet boycotting Israel due to a political matter, one which Israel consistently tries to resolve but is rebuffed.”
Rabbi Spero added: “Ben and Jerry’s sells in countless Muslim countries where Jews are consigned to second class and inferior status, prohibited from settlement and worship, yet Ben and Jerry’s sells and produces their products in these countries. They also produce and sell in communist countries where human rights are violated daily.
“Ben and Jerry’s punishment and ostracizing of Jews living in areas the Muslim world considers off-limits to Jews is an acquiescence to the terrible anti-Jewish theory called judenrein, namely that an area formally be free of Jews. Is that Ben and Jerry’s idea of social justice?
“Ben and Jerry’s acts of hypocrisy,” added Rabbi Spero, ‘and willful assault against Israel is a capitulation to Hamas, and to the “woke” world which is becoming more anti-Jewish by the day. Ben and Jerry’s announcement will go down as a day of infamy in the food industry.”
(Sources: Israel National News, Times of Israel, Associated Press) – (Additional reporting by Fern Sidman)