With a little help from like-minded friends: It has now emerged that the company’s board consulted several “activists” before making its headline-garnering decision.
By Rachel O’Donoghue, Honest Reporting
Ben & Jerry’s provoked a firestorm last month when it announced its would end sales to “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” A statement released at the time explained the ice cream brand decided it was “inconsistent with [their] values” to continue distrubition in the disputed West Bank [Judea and Samaria], while a FAQs section on the company’s website defended the move as “neither anti-Israel nor anti-Semitic.”
However, it soon became clear that the board of Ben & Jerry’s had, in fact, wanted the boycott to cover the entirety of the Jewish state. Its chairperson Anuradha Mittal, who has voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, admitted an earlier draft of Ben & Jerry’s statement did not include a commitment to continuing sales in the rest of the country, but this was seemingly quashed by parent company Unilever.
It has now emerged that the company’s board consulted several “activists” before making its headline-garnering decision.
According to reports, Human Rights Watch “Israel and Palestine” Director Omar Shakir was among those who were sought to advise the board on why it should take action. Shakir, who was previously deported from the Jewish state for supporting BDS, was consulted as a “valid source of information about Israel.”
According to a former Ben & Jerry’s employee, Shakir wrote directly to the board, whose members also apparently based their decision on information derived from an April HRW report authored by Shakir that smeared Israel as overseeing a system of “apartheid” and committing “crimes against humanity.”
In addition, the board similarly recruited journalist Peter Beinart, a frequent critic of Israel. Beinart revealed he had “spoken privately to [Ben & Jerry’s] executives and encouraged their efforts.” Moreover, the company sent a memo to franchisees who had expressed concerns about the boycott, asking them to “join us for a learning opportunity and respectful discussion with author and Middle East expert, Peter Beinart.”
Apparently, Beinart’s self-confessed support for the dismantling of the Jewish state – a belief that is incidentally shared by terrorist organization Hamas – qualifies him as an “honest” broker.
Also proud to take credit for Ben & Jerry’s move was the pro-BDS group Vermonters for Justice in Palestine. One of its activists, Mark Hage, took to the op-ed pages of the Guardian to boast that the decision was a result of years of pressure from the organization in an article titled, We got Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling in Israeli settlements. Here’s how we did it.
Despite the headline, Hage makes it clear he does not believe ending sales in Jewish communities located beyond the pre-1967 borders goes far enough. Instead, he expresses his fervent wish that corporations will boycott all of Israel with an aim of strangling its economy:
“We also implore other companies to break their ties to Israel’s settlements and to its economy as a whole. After all, Israel’s settlements don’t exist in isolation; they are fully backed by Israel, and it is perfectly clear that Israel’s human rights abuses extend beyond its settlements.”
The revelations about the individuals Ben & Jerry’s asked for advice before making its decision is concerning to say the least. Did the board seek recommendations from anyone who might have offered an alternative viewpoint? Did the brand reach out to someone who could have pointed out that the BDS movement is inherently linked to anti-Semitism?
HonestReporting has put questions to this effect to Ben & Jerry’s – however, it seems that board members have made up their minds; that is, with a little help from some friends with dubious, if not outright hostile records on Israel.
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