'I am not anti-Semitic': Ben and Jerry's board chair says amid Israel boycott controversy
TORONTO -- The chair of Ben & Jerry’s board of directors denies accusations of anti-Semitism in the wake of the company’s decision to stop selling its ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories.
“This action is not anti-Semitic. I am not anti-Semitic. The vile hate that has been thrown at me does [not] intimidate me. Pls work for peace – not hatred!” Anuradha Mittal tweeted on Tuesday.
“I am proud of @benandjerrys for taking a stance to end sale of its ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Her comments follow Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid calling the move a “shameful surrender to antisemitism.”
Mittal’s tweet marks her first public comments since Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would no longer sell its products in east Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Their statement attributed the pullout to “the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
Ben & Jerry’s licensing agreement expires in December 2022 and its parent company -- consumer goods conglomerate Unilever -- would not renew it. Unilever highlighted in a separate statement at the time that it remains "fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades."
Ben & Jerry’s will continue selling ice cream in Israel through a different arrangement. But doing so will be harder said than done as major Israeli supermarket chains – the main way the ice cream is distributed -- all operate in the occupied settlements.
Last week, Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed to "act aggressively" against Ben & Jerry's decision, with the country's ambassador to the U.S. urging dozens of state governors to punish the company under anti-boycott laws.
Ben & Jerry’s, founded in Vermont in 1978, has not shied away from social causes in the past.
It has long-supported marriage equality in the U.S. and elsewhere, supported the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, and, in 2018, rebranded one of its flavours to call out the former Trump administration over what it called regressive policies against the environment.
With files from The Associated Press