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Ben & Jerry’s Co-Founders on Why They Don’t Boycott GA and TX: “I Don’t Know”

The Ben & Jerry’s co-founders said they didn’t know why they’re not going to boycott Georgia and Texas over their recent laws regarding abortion and voting rights following their July decision to stop doing business in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
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October 11, 2021
Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

The Ben & Jerry’s co-founders said they didn’t know why they’re not going to boycott Georgia and Texas over their recent laws regarding abortion and voting rights following their July decision to stop doing business in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

In an October 10 interview, Axios reporter Alexi McCammon asked the co-founders why the ice cream giant is still selling its product in Georgia and Texas; Co-Founder Ben Cohen paused, shrugged and then said, “I don’t know.” “It’s an interesting question,” he added. “I don’t know what that would accomplish. We’re working on those issues of voting rights.”

McCammon then said that it’s now “impossible” for women in Texas to get an abortion. “By that reasoning we should not sell any ice cream anywhere,” Cohen replied. “I’ve got issues with what’s being done in most every state and most every country.” Jerry Greenfield, the other Ben & Jerry’s co-founder, interjected that the difference between the Texas and Georgia laws and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is that “what Israel is doing is considered illegal under international law.”

Earlier in the interview, the co-founders rejected accusations that their July decision regarding Israel was antisemitic.

“It’s absurd,” Cohen said. “I’m anti-Jewish? I’m a Jew! My whole family is Jewish. My friends are Jewish.” Cohen also argued that the Israeli government’s constant greenlighting of building settlements in the West Bank has impeded progress toward a two-state solution. 

Greenfield claimed that various states using anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) laws against Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, over the matter was based on “misinformation,” denying that the July decision is a boycott of Israel. Cohen said he believes in Israel’s right to exist.

Some on Twitter argued that Cohen and Greenfield’s response to the question about Texas and Georgia showed their hypocrisy on the company’s Israel decision. StandWithUs Israel Executive Director Michael Dickson tweeted that the interview was a “car crash” and that it shows “why their Israel boycott is wrong-headed, unfair and yes – discriminatory. No wonder States and customers are dropping them. @unilever ought to act to reverse this – and quickly.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted that Cohen and Greenfield are “clueless” as to “why they launched a boycott ONLY against the Jewish state. But they forked over [money] to #Antisemitic board chief [Anuradha Mittal] who defends #Hamas + Hezbollah [and] demonizes Israel.” The Washington Free Beacon reported in July that Mittal heads The Oakland Institute think tank, which “has published articles defending Hezbollah and Hamas.” Mittal has denied being antisemitic, tweeting that she has received “vile hate” since Ben & Jerry’s announced its Israel decision.

Human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky, who heads the International Legal Forum, tweeted that the interview was a “train wreck” since Cohen and Greenfield showed “the sheer hypocrisy, bigotry and double standards of their #Israel boycott. I hope @Unilever is watching this!”

Alex Gandler, Israeli Deputy Consul General to the Southeast, tweeted that the interview was “cringe worthy.” “Making statements and decisions about Israel without understanding anything about it. It’s nice to sit in your nice and green pasture in Vermont while criticizing Israel.”

Akiva van Konigsveld, an editor at Honest Reporting, tweeted out a screenshot of an article stating that the United Nations denounced Texas’ abortion law as a violation of international law. He argued in a subsequent tweet: “Israel has never forced anyone to live in the disputed territories, nor has Israel forced existing populations to leave.”

George Mason University International Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich, who is also a fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum tweeted, “To say a policy is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean those doing it are full of subjectively experienced hate. They may even like Jews individually -but they treat them differently collectively, imposing particular harms.”

Tablet Chief Technology Officer Noam Blum tweeted, “The shrugging and legit lack of thought about this is the best part. None of this is sincere. It’s just white boomers who are terrified of young progressives and just wanna fit in.”

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