Ben & Jerry’s co-founders have pushed back against claims of anti-Semitism following the company’s decision to stop offering its ice cream products in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, noting that they themselves are Jews.
Writing in the New York Times, Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield said they were “proud Jews” who view Israel’s occupation of the West Bank as a barrier to peace.
“It’s possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we’ve opposed policies of the US government. As such, we 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,” they argued, in an op-ed published on Wednesday. The move to pull Ben & Jerry’s from shelves in Israeli-occupied territories was in keeping with the firm’s “progressive values.”
The iconic ice cream duo noted that, while they no longer have operational control of the company, they nonetheless felt that the boycott was “one of the most important decisions” that the firm has made in its more than 40-year history.
The co-founders also wanted to make it absolutely clear that they didn’t hate Jews. “That we support the company’s decision is not a contradiction nor is it anti-Semitic,” Cohen and Greenfield wrote. On the contrary, the boycott is in support of justice and human rights, “core tenets of Judaism.”
The op-ed comes amid ongoing uproar over the ice cream embargo. Earlier this week, reports emerged that an Israel Defense Forces soldier was attempting to sue Ben & Jerry’s, arguing that he had been unfairly deprived of his “preferred” dessert.
The Israeli government has expressed similar angst. Last week, Israeli President Isaac Herzog described the boycott as “a new sort of terrorism, economic terrorism,” against the Jewish State.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was also distraught over the ice cream embargo, and claimed that that Ben & Jerry’s had rebranded as an “antisemitic ice cream.”
The Vermont-based ice cream brand, which has developed a reputation over the years as a champion of progressive causes, announced in July that it would be “inconsistent” with its values to sell its ice cream in occupied territories in Gaza and the West Bank.
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