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Ben & Jerry’s-Israel CEO: ‘I Refuse to Boycott My Neighbors’

The CEO of Ben & Jerry’s Israeli franchise, Avi Zinger (pictured above), explained on Substack Monday that by removing his license at year’s end, the ice cream maker actually undermined the social justice it claims to promote.

The independent board of the Vermont-based company – a subsidiary of British conglomerate Unilever – announced last summer it would not renew its contract with Zinger because he would not join its boycott of sales in the so-called “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” The parent company has supported the decision, which Zinger says is unjustified and anti-Semitic.

From Zinger’s essay, featured on Bari Weiss’s Substack site:

In 1988 I opened a scoop shop in Tel Aviv. People loved it. I began manufacturing, selling and distributing Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia to Israeli and Palestinian cities. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Druze—everyone ate it up.

 

For almost 35 years—at my factory in southern Israel, at our scoop shops, and with the drivers and distributors who take our product to markets across Israel and to Palestinian cities and towns—I have had the privilege of working with an incredible range of people. Religious and secular Arabs and Israelis, Sudanese and Ethiopian refugees, immigrants struggling to learn Hebrew, and people with disabilities. Some of them have worked with me for decades. We’ve devoted our lives to Ben & Jerry’s and become an extended family, forging personal friendships with U.S. employees, management and leadership.

 

I share the company’s commitment to social justice and have invested tremendous energy and personal resources in programs that foster coexistence and tolerance between Palestinians and Israelis. Among them: Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow, an M.I.T.-affiliated program that teaches Palestinian and Israeli high school students entrepreneurial skills; Seeds of Peace, which brings together Israeli and Palestinian youth; the Ethiopian National Project, which helps Ethiopian immigrants assimilate to Israel; Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, a science-education program sponsored by NASA that includes Arab and Jewish schoolchildren; Jordan River Village, a Paul Newman initiative that gives terminally ill children and their families the opportunity to have a week-long sleep-away camp experience; and Kids4Peace, the name of which speaks for itself.

It is certainly verifiable whether Zinger supported these causes – in which case if he did, makes the Ben & Jerry’s board of directors, led by Anuradha Mittal, look even more anti-Semitic.

Zinger wrote that the board acted against him due to pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He added: “Contrary to what you may have read, BDS is not about opposing a particular Israeli policy. It is about opposing Israel’s very existence, and thus it rejects any effort to ‘normalize’ relations between Israelis and Palestinians. BDS cares more about ending Israel entirely than providing economic opportunities to Palestinians.”

Learn more about NLPC’s initiative to hold Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s accountable at StopBenandJerrys.com.

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