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Former Ben and Jerry’s Employee Says Anti-Israel Activist Spoke to Board Ahead of Boycott Decision

Human Rights Watch Israel-Palestine director Omar Shakir spoke directly to board

Human Rights Watch Israel-Palestine director Omar Shakir / Getty Images
• August 11, 2021 5:00 am

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A former longtime Ben & Jerry's employee said the company's decision to boycott Israel was based on advice from a BDS activist who was expelled from Israel for spearheading economic pressure campaigns against the Jewish state.

Susannah Levin, who spent 21 years as a freelance graphic designer for Ben & Jerry's before resigning last month over the company's decision to halt its sales in the West Bank, said the company's board consulted with Human Rights Watch's Israel-Palestine director Omar Shakir, an advocate of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement who accused the Jewish state of "crimes against humanity."

"Omar Shakir spoke directly to the board," said Levin in an interview with Israel's Channel 2 radio on Tuesday. "He wrote the Human Rights Watch report, [which] is what they were basing their information on. It's a report that accuses Israel of apartheid."

"They believed him to be a valid source of information about Israel," she added.

Ben & Jerry's has come under scrutiny for its involvement with anti-Israel activists. The company recently hosted a conference call with anti-Zionist writer Peter Beinart, who has said he supports the destruction of the Jewish state, to address concerns about the boycott from its franchise owners, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Ben & Jerry's declined to comment on Shakir's alleged involvement with its board. Human Rights Watch did not respond to a request for comment.

Shakir was deported from Israel in 2019 due to his attempts to pressure various companies and international organizations, including FIFA, to join boycotts against homes and businesses in contested parts of Israel. He took credit for Airbnb's decision to bar Israelis in the West Bank from renting their homes on the site in 2018. The rental service later backtracked in the face of legal challenges.

In April, Shakir authored a report for Human Rights Watch that accused Israel of committing "crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution."

The report's conclusion was rejected by the Biden administration, which said it was "not the view of this administration that Israel's actions constitute apartheid." Israeli ambassador to the United States Gilad Erdan denounced the report as "lies and fabrications, bordering on anti-Semitic."

Levin said she believed she had no choice but to resign after Ben & Jerry's announced its boycott.

"I knew that my job was over. I knew I wasn't going to work there if they were going to [boycott Israel]," said Levin. "I worked for this company for so long, and they were like family to me. To think they would really join up with people who hate Israel so much, it's a terrible feeling."