Ben & Jerry’s Jewish Co-Founders Double Down, Say Israel Boycott ‘Most Important Company Decision’

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The Jewish founders of Ben & Jerry’s said they “unequivocally support” the ice cream maker’s move to boycott Israeli settlements in the West Bank, calling it “one of the most important decisions the company has made in its 43-year history.”

Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who founded the company in the 1970s before selling it to British conglomerate Unilever in 2000, backed the decision in an op-ed for the the New York Times on Wednesday.

“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 for our whole lives. As our company began to expand internationally, Israel was one of our first overseas markets. We were then, and remain today, supporters of the State of Israel,” they wrote.

“But it’s possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we’ve opposed policies of the U.S. government,” they added. “As such, we unequivocally support the decision of the company to end business in the occupied territories, which the international community, including the United Nations, has deemed an illegal occupation.”

Israel’s leaders have spoken out against the decision, calling it anti-Semitic and a form of terrorism.

They hailed Ben & Jerry’s “especially brave” decision and said the company is “on the right side of history.”

“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 wrote, adding the boycott should be seen “not as anti-Israel, but as part of a long history of being pro-peace.”

“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,” they wrote.

“That we support the company’s decision is not a contradiction nor is it anti-Semitic,” they wrote. “In fact, we believe this act 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.”

Their oped followed an Axios report that reported on a special task force set up by the Israeli government to pressure the ice cream chain into walking back its decision.

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