Ben & Jerry’s brought in vocal Israel critic and anti-Zionist author Peter Beinart to talk to its store owners about Israel’s "illegal occupation" earlier this week, after franchisees raised concerns about the company’s boycott of the Jewish state, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.
On the conference call with Ben & Jerry’s franchisees and store managers, Beinart argued that Israel is illegally occupying territory that it seized from Jordan in an offensive war in 1967 and claimed that the Jewish state sends soldiers into Palestinian villages to abduct minors, according to a source familiar with the content of the call.
The company’s decision to invite Beinart—an advocate for the Israel boycott movement who has called for the abolition of the Jewish state—to address insider objections indicates that it is doubling down on its criticism of Israel in the face of internal and external fallout. Thirty Ben & Jerry’s franchise store owners recently sent a letter to the company, which is owned by Unilever, asking it to "re-examine and withdraw" its boycott decision. Unilever has responded with reassurances that the company remains committed to doing business in the Jewish state even as its subsidiary continues its boycott.
Beinart told the Washington Free Beacon that he was not compensated by Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever and has no financial arrangement with either company. He said he was invited to speak on the call because he has publicly promoted boycotts of contested areas of Israel.
"I wrote a NYT op-ed calling for settlement boycott in 2012. I’ve espoused this view for a long time," said Beinart.
Beinart said he could not recall if the descriptions of his comments during the call were "entirely accurate," and said it was "very unlikely I said 'offensive war' given how I generally speak about 1967." He declined to provide additional details about his remarks.
The ice cream company sent a memo to franchisees inviting them to "join us for a learning opportunity and respectful discussion with author and Middle East expert, Peter Beinart."
Beinart recently disclosed in his newsletter that he has "spoken privately to [Ben & Jerry’s] executives and encouraged their efforts" on the boycott campaign, adding that "no one has produced any independent evidence that the company is hostile to Jews."
Beinart was one of the most prominent supporters of the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq while serving as the editor of an unapologetically Zionist New Republic in the early 2000s. In the years since, he has offered countless apologies and repositioned himself as a leading critic of Israel and Zionism, landing a New York Times column in the process. Beinart now calls Israel an apartheid state and says that the pro-Israel community silences and intimidates critics.
In July 2020, Beinart took his criticism of Israel to new heights when he penned an editorial stating, "I no longer believe in a Jewish state"—a position that is shared by those who want to see Israel destroyed, including Palestinian terror groups.
Ben & Jerry’s did not respond to a request for comment. Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, did not respond to a request for comment.
Concerned franchisees of the ice cream company recently sent a letter to Ben & Jerry’s leadership asking them to reconsider the decision to halt product sales in the West Bank, arguing that it "not only distorts the situation on the ground—it has imposed, and will to continue to impose, substantial financial costs on all of us."
The company has also faced backlash from state and local governments over its decision. Florida placed Ben & Jerry’s on a list of "scrutinized" companies earlier this month, and Maryland is reviewing its state contracts with the ice cream maker.
Note: This post was originally published on Aug. 7 at 12 p.m.
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