Israeli envoy criticizes Ben & Jerry’s founders over boycott

Photo: Unilever PLC
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Augusta Saraiva and Alisa Odenheimer Bloomberg News (TNS)

The Israeli ambassador to the U.S. accused Ben & Jerry’s co-founders of “helping the antisemites” following an interview in which they defended the company’s decision not to sell its ice cream in the country’s occupied Palestinian territory.

Gilad Erdan, the envoy to the U.S. and the United Nations, said the “ignorance and hypocrisy” toward Israel demonstrated during the interview aired Oct. 10 on HBO is “an outrage.” Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who sold the company to Unilever Plc in 2000, said they aren’t against “Israel’s right to exist,” they just “didn’t want our ice cream sold in the occupied territory.”

“Part of the definition of antisemitism is precisely to demand from Israel what is not demanded of any other entity in the world,” Erdan said in a statement Monday. “Ben and Jerry have no problem with their ice cream being sold to supporters of terrorism, and yet they are boycotting Israel.”

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Cohen and Greenfield, who no longer have an operational role at Ben & Jerry’s, have noted that they are themselves Jewish. In the “Axios on HBO” interview, Cohen said the idea that they are antisemitic was “absurd.”

The Vermont-based company announced in July that it would stop selling its products in Jewish West Bank settlements and areas of east Jerusalem by the end of 2022. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Unilever the “blatantly anti-Israel” decision would have “serious repercussions, legal and otherwise.”

“I will continue to act so that as many countries as possible will include Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever on their black list, until this despicable boycott is ended,” Erdan said. Since July, states including New Jersey, Texas and Florida have taken steps to divest from the company.

Unilever shares were down 0.6% at 3:10 p.m. in London. The stock is down about 13% this year.

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