Susannah Levin, a graphic design contractor, announced in a July 20 Facebook post that she would be no longer be doing business with Ben & Jerry’s after “their statement on Israel.”
On July 19, Ben & Jerry’s issued a statement that they would no longer be selling their products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” and would operate elsewhere in Israel. Levin wrote in her Facebook post that after 21 years, she will no longer be working at the company over their statement. As part of her rationale, she linked to a video from the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on why anti-Zionism is antisemitism.
Levin told the Journal in an interview that even though she’s a contractor, she had been working exclusively with Ben & Jerry’s “for years.” “My art touched every part of the business,” Levin said, which included murals, sides of trucks and coupons.
She first learned about the Ben & Jerry’s decision because there had been a pressure campaign against them since the Israel-Hamas conflict in May to issue a statement against Israel, and people noticed that Ben & Jerry’s had been silent on social media since then. Prior to the July 19 announcement, the last tweet from the Ben & Jerry’s Twitter account was on May 18.
Levin started asking people in the company what was going on, and she eventually saw a recording of an all-company meeting where it was made clear that Ben & Jerry’s “was going to have do something” but they weren’t sure what exactly they were going to do. Levin noticed that none of the employees at the meeting gave any indication they were opposed to action, prompting Levin to reach out to the higher-ups to give her input.
“I wanted to teach them about the nature of a BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] campaign and what it’s really like in Israel, and how there’s so much nuance they’re missing if perhaps they’re only looking at the kind of information that’s being presented to them,” Levin said. She added that she knew whatever action Ben & Jerry’s took could be “a really, really big deal.”
“Israel can survive without Ben & Jerry’s and Ben & Jerry’s can survive without Israel, but when Ben & Jerry’s makes a message, they make it big,” Levin said. “They generally do not just make a single message, they have a website and a whole social media blast and an event with ice cream and posters and a letter writing campaign, and the more I thought about it, the sicker I got thinking that … they might assign me to the job or one of my media co-workers to essentially do the task of spreading BDS propaganda. And I just knew I had to stop it because there’s so many impressionable people that follow Ben & Jerry’s and really love their product and trust them.”
Levin said she did talk to two people “at the highest level” in the company who were “gracious” in giving her time to share her views. She says that she had two separate meetings with one of them who was “pretty convinced of BDS being truthful and my view as merely an opinion.”
She said that she linked to the Sacks video in her Facebook post because “Rabbi Sacks really had his finger on the pulse of it.” “A lot of people say it’s not antisemitism to criticize government policies, but when the so-called government policies that you’re criticizing are not actually policies at all, that’s blood libel. And it’s no different than the blood libel of the 1930s or the blood libel of the Middle Ages. It’s the same thing. It’s impugning Jews for crimes that they have not committed.
“Nobody’s trying to claim that Israel is perfect and that the Israeli government is perfect, they’re far from that. But apartheid state? Arguably no. There’s so much that’s wrong in these arguments and there’s so much good that can be done.”
Levin said the reception she’s gotten from the public since her Facebook post went public has been “very positive.” “I want people in the Jewish community to know that there are so many resources out there. You don’t have to do this on your own.”