Corporate America, Outspoken on Black Lives Matter and Ukraine, Offers Muted Response to Terror in Israel 

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
October 13, 2023

Companies across the Western world were quick to issue statements condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the killing of George Floyd. As Israel reels from the worst terrorist attack in its history, many of those same companies are less outspoken.

Deutsche Bank—which helped Hitler expropriate Jewish business during the Holocaust—condemned Russian president Vladimir Putin's assault the day his tanks rolled into Ukraine. It took five days and an inquiry from the Washington Free Beacon, though, for the German bank to condemn Hamas's rampage, which killed over 1,000 people and set the stage for a multi-front war between Israel and its neighbors.

"There can be no justification for such brutal acts and loss of life," the bank said in an email. As of this writing, the statement does not appear to be posted anywhere on the company's website, which promotes a panoply of diversity initiatives announced in the wake of George Floyd's death. Nor does it specify the actor responsible for the "brutal acts," or the victims of its crimes—Hamas and the Israelis it targeted, respectively.

Disney, meanwhile, decried "Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine," condemned "lethal attacks" on black Americans, and opposed a law banning Florida public schools from teaching third-grade students about gender identity. The company had yet to issue a public statement on the weekend's atrocities, which include the decapitation of children, as of Thursday evening and did not respond to a request for comment. Late Thursday, it issued a statement condemning the attacks and pledging $2 million in humanitarian relief.

It is now commonplace for big businesses to weigh in on current events and signal their support for social justice, often at the demand of employees. But with Israel fending off the worst surprise attack on its soil since the Yom Kippur War, many corporate communications teams are tight-lipped. The silence underscores the extent to which left-wing corporate diversity initiatives are tied up with the so-called Palestinian cause—embracing a view of the world in which Palestinians are equated with racial minorities in the United States and Israelis with white oppressors. Google, for example, was forced to reassign its diversity chief after the Free Beacon revealed his anti-Semitic blog posts.

The corporate silence comes as the national Black Lives Matter group—one of the top recipients of corporate charity in 2020—has refused to disavow a local chapter's support for Hamas, including a now-deleted post praising the terrorists who mowed down concertgoers in southern Israel. Coca-Cola, which donated $500,000 to Black Lives Matter in 2020, did not respond to a request for comment or issue a statement about the attacks.

There is more. Within a day of Russia's invasion, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon waived long-distance call fees to Ukraine. The mobile carriers have not done so for Israel, although T-Mobile told the Free Beacon that most of its plans "include unlimited international texting from anywhere in North America." AT&T and Verizon did not respond to requests for comment.

Though some companies, including Amazon and JP Morgan, have expressed public support for Israel since the attacks, others—including Apple, IKEA, Target, and General Motors—have not, according to a review of their websites. Those companies, which did not respond to requests for comment, all issued statements about Ukraine and Black Lives Matter.

Israeli officials say the contrast reflects a familiar double standard around the Jewish state, which is now gearing up for a ground assault on the Gaza Strip.

"The silence of companies that took strong stands and issued clear public statements promptly in the past is troubling," said Michal Cotler-Wunsh, a former member of the Israeli Knesset and the country's envoy for combating anti-Semitism. "If you can't unequivocally condemn the butchering of babies, families, women, children, and elderly in their beds, you lose the right to condemn Israel when it does what any country must do to safeguard its borders and citizens."

A handful of companies responded to Free Beacon requests for comment, condemning the terrorist attacks, but did not post their statements or positions publicly. Walmart, for example, told the Free Beacon that it condemned the "horrific atrocities on innocent civilians"—like Deutsche Bank, it did not say who committed them—and was working to ensure the safety of its Israeli associates. The retail giant, which has spent millions on diversity initiatives throughout Arkansas, had not posted that statement on its website by press time.

Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment, but did issue a public statement within hours of the Free Beacon's inquiry, expressing sympathy for those affected by the violence and disavowing the views of a Starbucks labor union—one with ties to prominent Democrats—that celebrated the Hamas attacks on social media.

Universities have likewise been slow to condemn the massacre, and the ones that have spoken out have often fumbled. Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, for example, issued mealy-mouthed condolences about the outbreak of violence in the Middle East and were forced to follow up with stronger statements in response to widespread outrage.

Others, such as Northwestern, which did not respond to a request for comment, have yet to take an official position, citing the need for institutional neutrality. That need appears to be a recent development, given that the school condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Supreme Court's ruling on affirmative action, the killing of George Floyd, and the January 6 riot.

Student groups have been less equivocal than university administrators. Chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine at Swarthmore, George Washington University, and the University of Virginia endorsed Hamas's attacks, while a coalition of 34 student groups at Harvard blamed Israel for the violence, prompting such backlash that several of them took their names off the statement.

The president of New York University's student bar association, Ryna Workman, said Tuesday morning the attacks were "necessary." By Tuesday evening, she had lost a job offer from Winston & Strawn.

Update Oct. 13, 10:21 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect Disney's statement on the terrorist attacks.

Update Oct. 13, 4:19 p.m.: After the publication of this story, Northwestern issued a statement condemning the attacks.