Locals Mostly Oppose Ben & Jerry’s Decision

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream pints with Hebrew lettering. (Linda Gradstein via JTA.org)

Ben & Jerry’s decision to no longer sell ice cream in what the company referred to as the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” sparked a social media firestorm and backlash from Israeli leaders — and has some local ramifications as well.

Local Ben & Jerry’s franchises, who are self-sufficient besides the brand, did not wish to follow their parent company into the geopolitical fray. Managers and owners expressed a desire to just sell ice cream.

But Jewish consumers in the Philadelphia area were more than happy to share their thoughts. Some supported Ben & Jerry’s decision. Most did not.

Don Sable of Elkins Park promised to boycott all Ben & Jerry’s products moving forward. Sable called the company’s actions “despicable and antisemitic.”

“The boycott of not selling their ice cream across the Green Line is a statement that Muslims and Christians can live on both sides of the Green Line, but Jews are not to be afforded the same rights,” Sable said.

Sable further explained that if company founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield — who no longer own the company, but expressed support for the decision — cared about peace in the Middle East, they wouldn’t be supporting the “Arab Palestinian rejectionism” of Israel that dates to the United Nations’ partition plan in 1947. He concluded that Ben & Jerry’s is playing right into the hands of Palestinian leaders, who perpetuate their victimhood cycle to generate sympathy from political progressives.

“As long as they keep saying no to peace, money from around the world keeps coming in and they get to enjoy playing the victim,” Sable said. “Through their boycott, Ben & Jerry’s has also shown support for that ridiculous situation and paradigm.”

Brian Smith of Philadelphia called the ice cream company’s actions “cowardly” and “ignorant.” He said he never bought the ice cream in the past and never would even consider doing so now.

Smith explained that Cohen and Greenfield were drinking the “antisemitic Kool-Aid propounded daily by the Associated Press.” For Smith, this amounted to two primary falsehoods: That Palestine, which is still not recognized as a state by many major countries, including the U.S., has territories and that Israel is occupying them.

“Perhaps we should see if Ben or Jerry starts hawking free copies of ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ with every five pints purchased?” Smith concluded, referring to the false and antisemitic book describing a plan for Jewish world domination.

Gail Schwartz of Philadelphia and Marc Ullman of Galloway, New Jersey, said they would take it a step further than boycotting Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s is now owned by Unilever, the multinational consumer goods company.

Unilever owns hundreds of popular brands, including Dove, Hellmann’s and Lipton. Schwartz and Ullman will no longer use any of those products.

Ullman loved Ben & Jerry’s before. He would always stack his freezer with the company’s wacky flavors for the Shabbat dinners that he hosted with his wife. His wife loves

Hellmann’s mayonnaise and refuses to use any other brand.

Now, though, they will have to find new products.

“I hate it,” Ullman said.

But, he added, “anti-Zionism is antisemitism.”

Schwartz said that Unilever could at least salvage its other brands by dissociating from Ben & Jerry’s.

“I will continue to boycott Ben & Jerry’s and all Unilever brands as long as Unilever refuses to dissociate itself with B&J’s horrendous decision,” she concluded.

Sara Atkins is an Orthodox Jew who lives in Penn Wynne. She is also a supporter of Israel. But she is sticking with her favorite ice cream brand.

“This has been overblown,” she said. “The company has a right to sell where they want to sell and not to sell where they don’t want to sell.”

Atkins also said that it’s inaccurate to compare this decision to the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement. Ben & Jerry’s is, after all, still selling ice cream in Israel, just not in those territories.

Finally, she explained that the company has taken progressive stances in public in the past, too. Ben & Jerry’s publicly opposed former President Donald Trump and supported same-sex marriage and climate activism, among other stances.

“I’ve always known where the company was politically, and it’s never stopped me before,” Atkins said.

Perhaps more importantly, though, Atkins just loves the company’s flavors, like Karamel Sutra Core and Netflix and Chilll’d.

“It’s still the best ice cream on the market,” she said.

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