Jewish Communities of Vermont call on Ben & Jerry’s to ‘Serve Ice Cream, Not Hate’

Published: Aug. 1, 2021 at 6:22 PM EDT
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WATERBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - Jewish Vermonters are asking Ben & Jerry’s to stick to serving ice cream, not hate.

Starting next year, the company will stop selling the sweet in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including the West Bank and Jerusalem. Ben & Jerry’s says it will continue to supply ice cream to Israel through a new license agreement.

The business explains on its website the July 19 move is not anti-Israel and is not part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, or BDS, movement.

But a local organization disagrees.

Members of the Jewish Communities of Vermont gathered in front of the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury to peacefully rally against the decision.

“They have made a decision, wrongfully so, to step into building walls and creating more hatred, creating more anger, throwing fuel to the fire,” said Itai Klein of Stowe.

The group is calling on the ice cream company to use its power for peace, not division.

“Most importantly we want Ben & Jerry’s to work with us or without us to support groups working constructively for peace in the Middle East. And if that means rescinding their decision, that would certainly be appreciated because we think boycotts and the perception that it’s tied to the BDS movement just pushes people further away,” said Rick Gordon, the executive director of Jewish Communities of Vermont.

People at the rally argued Ben & Jerry’s could instead be using its resources to invest in positive, productive initiatives.

“If Ben & Jerry’s wants to take a stand, which they should, I think everyone should, it’s putting all the efforts and all the things that are working and make them work even more. So yeah, give rise to an amazing project of youth together, or an amazing project of sciences together,” said participant Shalhavit Simacohen.

Counter-protesters there shared a different perspective.

“I’m a Palestinian. My kids are half Palestinian, half American, so we’re here to show we like that move. We like what they did to support Palestine,” said Shadi Battah of Barre Town.

“Ben & Jerry’s realized that it shouldn’t... their ice cream shouldn’t be sold there, and it makes absolute sense. The other position is really a more extreme position,” said Eric Jacobson of Montpelier.

Regardless of differing opinions, the Jewish Communities of Vermont says it’s thankful to Ben & Jerry’s for giving the group permission to use the factory as the rally grounds, but the protesters will continue to hold them accountable in a way only Vermonters can.

“We’re calling them out on what they decided to do, and we’re taking them elsewhere on the right path, on the path they ought to be. Peace, love, harmony, coexistence, Chunky Monkey to all, as I say,” said Klein.

The company’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who no longer own the ice cream franchise, have also publicly stated they agree with the choice in an op-ed with the New York Times.

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