‘You’re Both Jewish’: Axios Reporter Confronts Ben & Jerry Over Accusations That West Bank Boycott is ‘Anti-Semitic’
Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, better known as Ben & Jerry, were asked by Axios reporter Alexi McCammond about some of the reactions to their July announcement that the company’s products would no longer be sold in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In her question, McCammond echoed the BDS movement’s rhetoric about “Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories,” a claim which is used to justify many things aside from lack of ice cream.
“Were you surprised by the backlash that came after that,” McCammond asked Greenfield in the latest episode of Axios on HBO.
“No. I wasn’t surprised,” he said. “And yet, when it happened, it’s still painful.”
“You have some loyal customers who think that the move is anti-Semitic,” said McCammond. “You’re both Jewish men. How did it feel personally to be wrapped up in accusations of being anti-Semitic?”
“Totally fine,” replied Cohen, who then laughed and said, “because it’s absurd.”
“I mean, what, I’m anti-Jewish? I mean, I’m a Jew,” he continued. “All my family is Jewish. My friends are Jewish.”
Greenfield said, “I understand people being upset. It’s a very emotional issue for a lot of people and I totally understand it. It’s a very painful issue for a lot of people.”
McCammond asked Cohen and Greenfield about the timing of the decision, considering that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been happening “for years.”
“We’re always in favor of the two-state solution,” said Greenfield. “The policy of the Israeli government has been to endorse these settlements in Occupied Territories that keep on making it harder and harder to actually have a two-state solution.”
McCammond asked, “In what way do you both feel that withholding money or taking money from somewhere is a way to hold someone accountable?”
Greenfield replied that “in terms of Israel, I don’t view it as withholding money.”
“It’s just saying, ‘We don’t want our ice cream sold in the Occupied Territories.”
“Right,” said McCammond. “But that affect the economy to an extent.”
“Not much,” responded Greenfield. “It’s a drop in the bucket.”
“So then is that really a big stand,” asked McCammond.
“It’s not a financial stance,” said Greenfield. “It’s a policy stance.”
Cohen jumped in and mentioned “that Ben & Jerry’s publicly supported Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter.”
He continued, “But over the years the company continues to sell more ice cream and thrive.”
McCammond noted that states are “taking financial action” and cited Arizona divesting more than $140 million in stock in Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever. She also mentioned New Jersey, which divested $180 million in Unilever stock.
“Do you care about that,” she asked.
“I do care because I think it’s largely based on misinformation,” said Cohen.
“What do you mean,” McCammond interjected.
“I think Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever are being characterized as boycotting Israel, which is not the case at all,” said Cohen. “It’s not boycotting Israel in any way.”
McCammond asked, “If you disagree with the Israeli government policy, why not just stop sales completely.”
“Well, I disagree with the U.S. policy,” said Greenfield, shrugging his shoulders. “We couldn’t stop selling in the U.S.”
Greenfield went on to say, “It’s fine to be involved with a country, to be a citizen of a country, and to protest some of the country’s actions. And that’s essentially what we’re doing in terms of Israel.” Cohen and Greenfield do not hold Israeli citizenship.
“We hugely support Israel’s right to exist,” he continued. “But we are against a particular policy.”
McCammond asked Cohen and Greenfield why, considering their support for voting rights, Ben & Jerry’s is sold in Georgia despite the state’s recent enactment of its election reform law.
“Texas, abortion bans,” she added. “Why are you still selling there?”
Greenfield shrugged his shoulders and, after a pause that was about eight seconds, said, “I don’t know. I mean, it’s an interesting question. I don’t know what that would accomplish. We’re working on those issues of voting rights and …”
Following a pause of a few seconds, he continued, “I don’t know. I think you ask a really good question. I think I’d have to sit down and think about it for a bit.”
McCammond, with emotion evident in her voice, said, “Every woman who lives in Texas now is going to have to have an impossible time getting an abortion. If you’re a woman who lives in Texas you have now been stripped of those rights because of the Texas government.”
McCammond’s remark omits that the Texas law has an exception for when the mother’s life is in danger.
“By that reasoning, we should not sell any ice cream anywhere,” said Greenfield. “I’ve got issues with what’s being done in most every state and every country.”
Cohen said, “I think one thing that’s different is that what Israel is doing is considered illegal by international law and so I think that’s a consideration.”
Watch above, via HBO.
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