WASHINGTON - Ben & Jerry's co-founders Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield on Wednesday said they "unequivocally support" the ice cream maker's decision to end ice cream sales in Israeli settlements.
Cohen and Greenfield – offering their first public comments on the controversial decision – described themselves in a New York Times op-ed as proud Jews, saying "it’s part of who we are and how we’ve identified ourselves for our whole lives." They noted that they remain supporters of the State of Israel, highlighting how it was one of their first overseas markets amid international expansion.
"But it’s possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we’ve opposed policies of the U.S. government," they wrote, highlighting how the international community deems the occupation of Palestinian territory to be illegal.
Cohen and Greenfield do not have any operational control of the company they founded in 1978, though they described their pride in the company's decision, saying it's on the right side of history. "In our view, ending the sales of ice cream in the occupied territories is one of the most important decisions the company has made in its 43-year history," they stated, describing the company's move as brave while knowing the eventual response it would elicit.
The two said their support for the decision is not antisemitic, saying it "can and should be seen as advancing the concepts of justice and human rights, core tenets of Judaism." They added that "we see the company’s recent action...not as anti-Israel, but as part of a long history of being pro-peace."
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They added that the decision does not constitute a boycott of Israel, nor did Ben & Jerry's endorse the BDS movement, but is simply a rejection of Israeli policy. "As Jewish supporters of the State of Israel, we fundamentally reject the notion that it is antisemitic to question the policies of the State of Israel," they wrote.
The op-ed was published hours after 90 lawmakers – including Meretz lawmaker Yair Golan and five Labor lawmakers – signed a letter imploring Ben & Jerry's to reverse its decision. Golan and the Labor lawmakers eventually pulled their signatures after progressive organizations such as Americans for Peace Now reached out through public and private channels.