Israel’s ambassador to the US has accused the founders of Ben & Jerry’s of “helping the anti-Semites” after they defended the company’s decision to not sell its ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Gilad Erdan, the envoy to the US and the UN, said the “ignorance and hypocrisy” towards Israel they had demonstrated during a television interview, broadcast on October 10 on HBO, was “an outrage”.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who sold the company to Unilever plc in 2000, said they are not against “Israel’s right to exist”, they just “didn’t want our ice cream sold in the occupied territory”.
“Part of the definition of anti-Semitism is precisely to demand from Israel what is not demanded of any other entity in the world,” Mr Erdan said on Monday.
“Ben and Jerry have no problem with their ice cream being sold to supporters of terrorism, and yet they are boycotting Israel.”
Mr Cohen and Mr Greenfield, who no longer have an operational role at Ben & Jerry’s, have noted that they are themselves Jewish. In the Axios on HBO interview, Mr Cohen said the idea that they are anti-Semitic was “absurd”.
Ben & Jerry’s said the co-founders had no comment on Mr Erdan’s statement.
The Vermont-based company announced in July that it would stop selling its products in Jewish West Bank settlements and areas of east Jerusalem by the end of 2022.
In response, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Unilever the “blatantly anti-Israel” decision would have “serious repercussions, legal and otherwise”.
“I will continue to act so that as many countries as possible will include Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on their blacklist, until this despicable boycott is ended,” Mr Erdan said.
Since July, US states including New Jersey, Texas and Florida have taken steps to divest from the company.
Unilever stock is down about 13 per cent this year.