Ben & Jerry's co-founders applaud decision to withdraw from settlements as 'proud Jews'
In an op-ed published by The New York Times, Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield said they "unequivocally support the decision of the company to end business in the occupied territories, which a majority of the international community, including the United Nations, has deemed an illegal occupation".
The op-ed follows Ben & Jerry's decision to halt sales of their ice cream at settlements in the occupied West Bank, sparking an angry backlash from the Israeli government.
The co-founders said the decision reflects the long-standing progressive principles of Ben & Jerry's.
"While we no longer have any operational control of the company we founded in 1978, we’re proud of its action and believe it is on the right side of history. In our view, ending the sales of ice cream in the occupied territories is one of the most important decisions the company has made in its 43-year history", they said.
"It was especially brave of the company. Even though it undoubtedly knew that the response would be swift and powerful, Ben & Jerry’s took the step to align its business and operations with its progressive values."
As "proud Jews", they believe the decision to withdraw from settlements is also an "act [that] can and should be seen as advancing the concepts of justice and human rights, core tenets of Judaism".
"As Jewish supporters of the State of Israel, we fundamentally reject the notion that it is anti-Semitic to question the policies of the State of Israel.” Read our cofounders’ op-ed in @NYTopinion on our operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: https://t.co/TbijBRtApq pic.twitter.com/5vbuaXbUHR— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) July 28, 2021
In a statement posted on its website in mid-July, the Vermont-based company said it recognises "the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners" when it announced it was ending sales in illegal settlements.
"We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry's ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region," the statement said.
The move was applauded by Palestinian activists across the world, who have long criticised the ice cream maker's business dealings in the occupied West Bank.
The move was met with fury by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
"Ben & Jerry's decided to brand itself as anti-Israel ice cream," Bennett said. "The boycott against Israel… reflects that they have totally lost their way. The boycott doesn't work and won't work and we will fight it with all our might.”
Lapid called it "a disgraceful capitulation to antisemitism, to BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement], to all that is evil in the anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish discourse".
Lapid threatened retaliatory measures against the American ice-cream company.
The nonviolent BDS movement says it is inspired by the boycott campaign that targeted South Africa's apartheid regime and is seeking to end Israel's brutal occupation of the West Bank through peaceful, non-violent action.
Israel sees BDS as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism - a claim that activists firmly deny, saying it is an attempt to discredit their cause.
A law was introduced by Israel in March 2017, barring access to the country for individuals and groups who have previously expressed support of the BDS movement.