Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of the eponymous ice cream brand, sat down for an interview with Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond as part of an Emmy Award-winning docuseries.
The in-depth conversation saw the famously progressive duo grilled about the Vermont-based firm’s divisive decision to end sales of its products in “Occupied Palestinian Territory” — that is, the disputed West Bank — as well as the subsequent fallout that included numerous US states divesting funds from Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever.
After acknowledging they were aware of having waded into an “emotional issue,” Greenfield was quizzed by McCammond on why the company only took a stance on the issue recently when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been ongoing for many years.
The policy of the Israeli government has been to endorse these settlements in the occupied territories that keep on making it harder and harder to actually have a two-state solution.”
In fact, Israeli peace plans have been rejected repeatedly by Palestinian leaders, including those that would have seen the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
If anything, it is the actions of the Palestinian Authority that have stymied the peace process, not those of the Israeli government.
Greenfield later described the steps taken by US states to divest from Unilever as “largely based on misinformation,” before clarifying, “I think Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever are being characterized as boycotting Israel, which is not the case at all. It’s not boycotting Israel in any way.”
However, a noteworthy point of contention that is conspicuously absent in this exchange is that the Ben & Jerry’s independent board did want to boycott Israel in its entirety.
Shortly after the company made its announcement in July, its board chairman Anuradha Mittal, who has a well-documented history of backing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, revealed she wanted to release a different statement that specifically made reference to discontinuing sales everywhere in the Jewish state.
The Axios interview then descended into something of a car crash for the ice cream makers.
Given their vehement disagreement with Israeli government policy, they were asked why, not unlike Mittal, they did not publicly support ending sales in all Israeli territory.
Cohen shrugged while comparing the situation to him disapproving of United States government policy:
Well, I disagree with US policy, we couldn’t stop selling in the US. I think it’s fine to be involved with a country, to be a citizen of a country, and to protest some of the country’s actions, and that’s essentially what we’re doing in terms of Israel. We hugely support Israel’s right to exist but we are against a particular policy.”
In response, McCammond pressed: Why, as “big proponents of voting rights,” has Ben & Jerry’s not halted sales in the state of Georgia, where Democrats argue recently introduced legislation will restrict voting access?
She also quizzed them on whether there will be moves to end sales in Texas in response to a law that restricts abortions after six weeks.
Cohen, stumbling somewhat, responded:
I don’t know. I mean, it’s an interesting question. I don’t know what that would accomplish. We’re working on those issues of voting rights and… I don’t know. You know I think you asked a really good question and I’d have to sit down and think about it for a bit.”
His inability to answer what is a fairly straightforward question highlights a glaring problem with Cohen’s and Greenfield’s “progressive” stance on Israel: namely, that it is biased.
As HonestReporting previously pointed out, there are numerous countries in which Ben & Jerry’s sells its products that are involved in territorial conflicts. Yet, the corporation singled out Israel for boycott action.
On being pressed again about this uneven policy application, Cohen admitted that “by that reasoning, we should not sell ice cream anywhere,” adding he has issues with things being done in almost every US state and nation.
Greenfield then noted that he feels the decision is different because “what Israel is doing is considered illegal by international law,” while ignoring the fact that the Ben & Jerry’s decision violates the United States Constitution, as well as numerous acts of Congress and various pieces of state legislation, which prohibit businesses from boycotting foreign countries.
Cohen and Greenfield may have hoped their interview would demonstrate what “principled” businessmen they are.
On the contrary, it exposed their decision for what it really is: hypocrisy at best.
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