Voice of the Jewish News: It’s a rocky road

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Voice of the Jewish News: It’s a rocky road

Ben & Jerry’s says it is defending its progressive values, but it might come to regret the friends it has gathered along the way, this week's editorial says

The ice cream maker's announcement is easier said than done (Photo: Reuters)
The ice cream maker's announcement is easier said than done (Photo: Reuters)

As the hottest week of the year so far steered many of us towards the supermarket freezers for a tub of ice cream, some in the Jewish community will have hesitated over the tubs of Ben & Jerry’s.

Britain’s second-favourite ice cream brand has come a long way from its humble roots in the US, where the eponymous Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield first sold their ice cream in pint-sized tubs in the 1980s.

The two Jewish entrepreneurs are progressive campaigners and their company has a history of activism on the environment and social justice. The company was a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and has donated funds to groups that raise awareness of climate change.

The pair have dabbled in politics before. They supported Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, while last year the firm criticised home secretary Priti Patel’s handling of the migrant crisis in the English Channel.

Yet the decision to pull out of West Bank settlements is a new front. Israelis take their ice cream seriously and have spawned a whole idiom – “third time, ice cream” – from its use as a social lubricant. Many will simply buy other brands because of Ben & Jerry’s political stance;
others will not change their habits.

But now that Ben & Jerry’s has decided to wade into the turbulent politics of the Middle East, the question is whether it will do the same for other global hotspots. Will it, for example, speak about human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province, a topic about which the Jewish News has been vocal?

Ultimately, it’s deeply regrettable that a mere ice cream maker has chosen to associate itself with the brutalist arguments of BDS, the Israel boycott movement. Ben & Jerry’s says it is defending its progressive values, but it might come to regret the friends it has gathered along the way.


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