While Ben & Jerry’s announcement this week that it would stop selling its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” may have caught the Israelis off guard, the settlement boycott was just the latest in a long story of progressive positions taken by the ice cream giant.
Ben & Jerry’s was founded in Vermont in 1978 by liberal Jews Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.
Greenfield described himself as an “aging hippie” in a 2015 interview with the UK-based Independent.
“A lot of people think hippies were irresponsible, but we really believed in everything about peace, love and caring. We still do and we always try to make a difference,” he said. declared.
Cohen told Delish magazine in April: “I think there is growing recognition that corporations are the most powerful force in the country, and that currently corporations are secretly using that power for their own benefit… consumers are realizing this fact. and they start to say that “business has a responsibility to work for justice.”
Cohen and Greenfield no longer own the company, which was sold to British conglomerate Unilever in 2000, but they have remained involved and the ice cream company has maintained its left-wing activism.
While many companies tread lightly in politics for fear of alienating customers, the ice cream maker has taken the opposite approach.
In 2014, Ben & Jerry’s joined the “Fight for the Reef” campaign in Australia, which led to conservative lawmakers boycotting the brand of ice cream to no avail.
The company named two flavors in honor of America’s top progressive lawmaker, Senator Bernie Sanders. During the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, Ben & Jerry’s unveiled “Bernie’s Yearning”.
In a play on Sanders’ economic views, Cohen then said that “the chocolate disc [in the flavor] accounts for the vast majority of the economic gains that have gone to the first percent since the end of the recession. Below, the rest of us.
Three years later, the company unveiled “Bernie’s back” in tribute to its senator from Vermont.
In 2015, Ben & Jerry’s launched “Save Our Swirled” to raise awareness about climate change. That same year, the company changed the name of its Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream to “I Dough, I Dough” to celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the states ban on same-sex marriage.
In 2017, the company announced that it would not be serving two scoops of the same flavor in Australia, due to the government’s refusal to legalize same-sex marriage.
Cohen and Greenfield were among a group of activists who were arrested while demonstrating for campaign finance reform on the U.S. Capitol in 2016.
Ahead of the 2018 midterms, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it was taking a stand against what it called the regressive policies of the Trump administration by renaming one of its flavors “Pecan Resist.”
The company said that “Pecan Resist” celebrates activists who resist oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice.
As part of the campaign, Ben & Jerry’s donated $ 25,000 each to four activist entities: Color of Change, Honor the Earth, Women’s March and the Neta multimedia platform.
The company said “it cannot remain silent in the face of policies that attack and attempt to roll back decades of progress on racial and gender equity, climate change, LGBTQ rights and refugee rights and immigrants “.
In 2019, Ben & Jerry’s unveiled “Justice ReMix’d” to highlight what he calls structural racism and a broken criminal justice system.
A portion of the proceeds supported the national office of Project Advancement, a multiracial civil rights group and their fight for justice for all, regardless of race or wealth.
The company said it worked with the Advanced Project in St. Louis to shut down The Workhouse and in Miami to slow down what both groups call “the school-to-prison pipeline.”
During the 2020 racial justice protests across the United States, Ben & Jerry’s issued a statement calling for the “dismantling[ing of] White Supremacy ”, and urging Americans to use the revival“ to hasten our nation’s long journey to justice and a more perfect union ”.
Also last year, Ben & Jerry’s joined the #StopHateForProfit campaign, suspending all of its paid ads on Facebook and Instagram and calling on the social media giant to take action to prevent its platforms from being used to amplify racism and violence. hatred.
The campaign was co-hosted by the Anti-Defamation League, which this week spoke out against the Ben & Jerry settlement boycott.
Ben & Jerry’s has been under pressure for years to make the decision announced on Monday.
Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine / Israel contacted Cohen and Greenfield in 2012, calling on them to cease sales in the West Bank settlements as well as East Jerusalem.
Dozens of progressive groups joined VTJP over the past decade until Ben & Jerry’s finally heeded the calls.
“We believe it is incompatible with our values that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT),” the company said in a statement.
“Although Ben & Jerry’s is no longer sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, we will remain in Israel under a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we are ready, ”he added.