Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

The bitter taste of Ben & Jerry's ice cream

Lately, the delicious flavors of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream have started to taste very bitter. Could it be the sudden introduction of antisemitic ingredients into the recipe have contaminated a great American product along with the story of a great American company?

Prior to being acquired by Unilever, Ltd., a British based international conglomerate in the food industry, in 2001, the company was not only successful, but was socially conscience and active in civil rights and environmental concerns. It certainly was not at its inception destined to adopt antisemitism and discriminatory practices as part of its business model.

According to Wikipedia, the company was founded in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. The two boyhood friends pooled $12,000.00 ($48,000.00 in 2020 dollars) to open an ice cream parlor in Burlington, Vermont. Their first location was a renovated gas station in the downtown area of Burlington.

Both men grew up in Merrick, Long Island, with Jewish backgrounds. They were apparently supportive of the Bernie Sanders campaign and are in general, philanthropic to progressive causes.

The expansion of their business to all of Israel in 1987, appeared to be exclusively business-motivated as part of their world-wide expansion.

When the company was sold to Unilever, Ltd., both Cohen and Greenfield gave up managerial control of the company as it became a subsidiary of the British conglomerate. However, as reported in the New York Times and as part of the required Securities & Exchange Commission filing, the company retained a certain amount of autonomy to continue its liberal “social activism.”

Recently, under pressure from anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist organizations some of which also support international terrorist groups recognized as such by the U.S. government, Ben and Jerry’s announced it would no longer sell its product and was withdrawing its brand from what it described as “the occupied Palestinian territories” (Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem).

This action by Ben and Jerry’s is not social activism. This action is part of the BDS effort to delegitimize the existence of the Jewish State, and to deny the indigenous right of the Jewish people to their homeland. It can only encourage the Jew-haters to spread the pandemic of antisemitism that is sweeping the world.

Whether Unilever, Ltd., by its acquiescence or by seeking shelter in a dubious agreement with its subsidiary regarding “social activism,” is culpable in this incident remains to be seen; but if it is clothed with responsibility for the antisemitic acts of its subsidiary, then all fair-minded Americans and all fair-minded people throughout the world should condemn not only the subsidiary, but the parent company for its hateful action taken against Israel and the Jewish people.

This is not a teachable moment. We must send a clear message by seeking redress in the courts if laws were violated, and expand our refusal to buy or use products of the brands produced and sold by the parent and its subsidiaries throughout the world. You can identify these brands at http://www.unileverusa.com.

There is an incredible amount of hypocrisy in supporting boycotts of Israel and ignoring the oppression committed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas against it own people.

The Palestinians truly are being oppressed, not by the Israeli government, but by their own governing authorities who torture and kill criticizing Palestinian dissenters in custody and create child soldiers in “summer camps” in Gaza.

The hypocrisy of silence and injustice perpetrated by the Arabs on their own people thunders across the Middle East; and the mirage of democracy and the rule of law and human rights taking hold in a so-called Palestinian state remains just that: a mirage in the eyes of the progressives who blindly travel in the desert of illusion.

If you wish to comment or respond you can reach me at melpearlman322@gmail.com. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner.

Mel Pearlman holds B.S. & M.S. degrees in physics as well as a J.D. degree and initially came to Florida in 1966 to work on the Gemini and Apollo space programs. He has practiced law in Central Florida since 1972. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; was a charter board member, first vice president and pro-bono legal counsel of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as holding many other community leadership positions.


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