Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s has called for a “permanent and immediate” ceasefire in Gaza, putting it at risk of reigniting a long-running dispute with its parent company Unilever.
Ben & Jerry’s board chair, Anuradha Mittal, describing herself as a “human rights, land rights, indigenous rights advocate” on LinkedIn, said in an interview this week with the Financial Times that the company calling for a ceasefire was “consistent with the history and values of our company.”
She said: “From Iraq to Ukraine, [Ben & Jerry’s] has consistently stood up for these principles. Today is no different as we call for peace and a permanent and immediate ceasefire.”
She added that it was “stunning” that “millions are marching around the world but the corporate world has been silent.”
The ice cream maker and activist corporation has a history of taking controversial stances on social and political issues, including LGBT+ rights, climate change, and refugees’ rights. The company was bought by Unilever in 2000 but has been ran autonomously by an independent board of directors since.
Mittal said the decision to call for a ceasefire had been arrived at after consulting with Ben & Jerry’s management and stakeholders, and that the ice cream brand’s board held “primary responsibility for its social mission”.
This 4th of July, it's high time we recognize that the US exists on stolen Indigenous land and commit to returning it. Learn more and take action now: https://t.co/45smaBmORH pic.twitter.com/a6qp7LXUAE— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) July 4, 2023
The company previously attempted to stop selling its product in the occupied Palestinian territories in 2021 without the consent of Unilever, resulting in the parent company cutting ties with its Israeli arm of the brand and selling it to a local Israeli licensee.
The company said at the time they believed it is “inconsistent with our values for our product to be presented within an internationally recognised illegal occupation.”
The decision to stop doing business in east Jerusalem and the West Bank was branded by Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid, as a “disgraceful capitulation” to antisemitism.
The company’s stance comes amid calls from anti-Israel activists to boycott several prominent companies.
Starbucks has drawn the ire of pro-Palestinian activists in recent months after the coffee giant sued the union Starbucks Workers United after the latter posted to social media, less than two weeks after the October 7 massacre, that they “stand with Palestine”.
McDonald’s was also targeted by campaigners after photos emerged on social media showing franchised stores in Israel giving out free meals to IDF personnel.