Julian Schvindlerman
Julian Schvindlerman

Ben & Jerry’s Woke Political Activism

Ben & Jerry´s statement (The Times of Israel).
Ben & Jerry´s statement (The Times of Israel).

May I propose a multiple-choice challenge to the reader? Guess which organization publishes these phrases on its website:

“We are committed to honoring the rights of all people to live with liberty, security, self-esteem, and freedom of expression and protest, and to have the opportunity to provide for their own needs and contribute to society.”

A) Amnesty International

B) Ben & Jerry’s

“We seek and support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice. We believe government resources are more productively used in meeting human needs than in building and maintaining weapons systems.”

A) Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

B) Ben & Jerry’s

“It’s time to transform our failing, racist criminal justice system, reimagine public safety, defund the police, and invest in communities of color.”

A) Black Lives Matter

B) Ben & Jerry’s

“The ongoing climate crisis does not affect all of us in the same way—the world’s most vulnerable populations are being hit hardest.”

A) Greenpeace

B) Ben & Jerry’s

That’s right, in all cases the correct answer is B: Ben & Jerry’s.

Need I clarify that these quotes were taken from the official website of the ice cream company (https://www.benjerry.com) and not from the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, which defines itself as “a social justice organization” that opposes “the legacies of white supremacy culture” and “oppressive and discriminatory systems,” while proclaiming its adherence to the ideal of “a more just and inclusive world.” No, it is Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings, Inc. -a company dedicated to a commercial activity- that proclaims these statements within its general concern for issues such as “climate justice,” “criminal justice reform,” “refugee rights” and “human rights and dignity”. There is no doubt that these are noble pronouncements. There is also no doubt that, in our contemporary cultural environment, they expose a politically correct Woke ideology. It is always easy to extoll platitudes.

But it seems that Ben & Jerry’s, in addition to posturing, does act on the ground. It has a long history of political activism and has at times politicized the flavors of its ice creams. In 2016 it publicized its support for the candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders by naming one of its ice creams “Bernie’s Yearning” and two years later it launched the flavor “Pecan Resistance” in opposition to President Donald Trump. Its chief executive, Matthew McCarthy, wrote an opinion piece supporting legislation favorable to paying reparations to descendants of slaves in the United States. Anuradha Mittal, president of the corporate board, also heads the Oakland Institute, which published nine reports critical of Israel in 2017 alone.

Last week Ben & Jerry’s plunged its nose further into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by announcing that, by the end of 2022, it will no longer sell its products in East Jerusalem (including the Old City Jewish Quarter) and the West Bank, areas the company called “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Thus, the company founded in 1978 by two Jews, Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen, chose to boycott the Jewish state (today it is owned by Unilever).

According to Danielle Letenyei of Market Realist, Ben & Jerry´s sells its ice creams in more than 35 different countries. Among them are Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines, Viktor Orban’s Hungary, and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s United Arab Emirates; neither of which is exactly a liberal democracy. David May, Richard Goldberg and Orde Kittrie of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, point to Unilever, the parent company, which maintains corporate offices in several countries that violate human rights, including China, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. “It is difficult to say why Unilever shows greater concern for the sale of ice cream in West Bank settlements than it does for the exploitation of forced labor in Xinjiang,” note these researchers. It’s actually quite easy. Virtue-signaling Israel carries no cost, while criticizing China does (just ask H&M).

Ben & Jerry’s political agenda has become so extreme, anti-Israel and woke that one should be forgiven for wondering if the ice cream company is still in Unilever’s hands or was it secretly sold to Human Rights Watch.

About the Author
Julian Schvindlerman is an Argentine writer and journalist specializing in Middle East affairs. He lectures on World Politics at the University of Palermo (in Buenos Aires) and is a regular contributor to Infobae and Perfil. He is the author of Escape to Utopia: Mao's Red Book and Gaddafi's Green Book; The Hidden Letter: A History of an Arab-Jewish Family; Triangle of Infamy: Richard Wagner, the Nazis and Israel; Rome and Jerusalem: Vatican policy toward the Jewish state; and Land for Peace, Land for War.
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