Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s is once again wading into the political hot potato that is the Middle East conflict by demanding a permanent ceasefire in Gaza as Israel battles Hamas terrorists holed up in the territory following the Oct. 7 massacre.
The Vermont-based ice cream giant — founded by childhood friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who are both Jewish — demanded “peace and a permanent and immediate cease-fire” between Israel and Hamas.
“Peace is a core value of Ben & Jerry’s,” board chair Anuradha Mittal told Financial Times on Monday.
“From Iraq to Ukraine [the company] has consistently stood up for these principles. Today is no different as we call for peace and a permanent and immediate ceasefire.”
Cohen and Greenfield sold the company to conglomerate Unilever in 2000 for $326 million and don’t serve in any official role with Ben & Jerry’s.
Last week, North Carolina pulled its retirement funds from Unilever in protest of Ben & Jerry’s stated desire to boycott Israeli settlements.
Mittal told FT that it was “stunning” that “millions are marching around the world but the corporate world has been silent.”
In 2021, the maker of popular flavors such as “Chunky Monkey” and “Cherry Garcia” clashed with Unilever after the brand said it would cease selling its products in Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
The move by the company, which maintains autonomy on issues such as branding and marketing, drew intense backlash.
In response, Unilever sold the Israeli chapter of Ben & Jerry’s to a local licensee, Avi Zinger, who has continued marketing the ice cream under the company’s brand name.
Ben & Jerry’s responded to the move by filing a lawsuit against Unilever. That lawsuit was settled in 2022.
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas has hurt the bottom line of other companies.
The CEO of McDonald’s said earlier this month that the fast food chain has seen a “meaningful business impact” on its restaurants in the Middle East due to “misinformation” about the company as it relates to its stance on the Israel-Hamas war.
In the days following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, a mob of protesters in Lebanon ransacked a local McDonald’s restaurant after McDonald’s Israel franchises said they would offer free meals to Israeli soldiers taking part in military operations in Gaza.
Anti-Israel demonstrators have also demanded a boycott of Starbucks over its perceived pro-Israel stance, but CEO Laxman Narasimhan said that protesters have been “influenced by misrepresentation on social media.”