Ben & Jerry’s Untimely Embrace of Linda Sarsour
Ice cream is now controversial. Welcome to America in 2018.
Ben & Jerry’s, which has supported liberal causes throughout its history, likely did not anticipate the criticism and talk of boycotts that followed its announcement of a new, limited-time flavor to be sold in its “scoop shops.”
People aren’t upset about the ingredient mix in “Pecan Resist.” But they are disappointed that the Women’s March is one of four activist groups that will receive proceeds from its sales.
Ben & Jerry’s says that it selected the groups because they are “working on the front lines of the peaceful resistance, building a world that supports their values.” But the values of Women’s March leaders, especially anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour — who was photographed with founders Ben Cohen, Jerry Greenfield, and others for the Pecan Resist announcement — don’t fit Ben & Jerry’s own ideals.
“We may not agree on everything,” Ben & Jerry’s Twitter feed responded, after an immediate wave of criticism following the announcement, “but the work that Linda has done to promote women’s rights is undeniably important and we are proud to join her in that effort.”
In a separate statement defending their partnership, Ben & Jerry’s claimed the Women’s March has been “unequivocal in denouncing religious discrimination, and anti-Semitism specifically.” It pointed to a Women’s March statement in which it claims to seek a world “free from anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, racism, and all forms of social violence.”
That fits Sarsour — as long as you pay no attention to everything she has done and said for years.
She opposes the state of Israel’s very existence – a viewpoint that by itself meets the State Department definition of antisemitism. And, in a recording obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Sarsour blamed Jews for police shootings of unarmed black people in America. She considers ultra-conservative Muslim clerics — those who advocate for strict, Saudi-styled restrictions on women and who are virulently anti-gay — as her heroes and mentors. And she embraced an actual Palestinian terrorist in Rasmea Odeh, who was responsible for a 1969 Jerusalem grocery store bombing that killed two college students.
That’s just part of a record that Ben & Jerry’s dismisses with the claim, “We may not agree on everything.”
Sarsour and national March President Tamika Mallory have struggled clumsily with Louis Farrakhan’s bigotry. Farrakhan is stridently anti-LGBT and proudly antisemitic. Mallory is a long-time admirer of his, calling the Nation of Islam leader the “GOAT” (greatest of all time), and Sarsour rushed to Mallory’s defense when Mallory refused to condemn Farrakhan’s bigoted rhetoric.
None of that stopped Ben & Jerry’s from choosing to elevate the Women’s March. The partnership also fell victim to some poor timing. In the week following Pecan Resist’s release, two major liberal celebrities broke with the Women’s March, and a German political group withdrew a human rights award it had planned to bestow upon March leaders.
“Any time that there is any bigotry or anti-Semitism in that respect, it needs to be called out and addressed,” TV star Alyssa Milano told The Advocate, explaining why she is unlikely to participate in a future Women’s March until it has new leadership. “I’m disappointed in the leadership of the Women’s March that they haven’t done it adequately.”
Debra Messing, longtime star of Will & Grace, then publicly supported Milano.
Last Wednesday, the “Womxn’s March Denver” issued a statement denouncing “anti-Semitism and the National Women’s March leadership team’s failure to clearly disassociate from anti-Semitic public figures.”
The tide seems to be going against Women’s March leaders and, hopefully, the poisonous ideas they embrace.
It was the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation for Social Democracy that laid out the details of Women’s March leaders, especially Sarsour. In an open letter in November, the foundation’s “scholarship holders and alumni” made the case that “Women’s March USA does not constitute an inclusive alliance” because organizers trivialize antisemitism and exclude Zionists.
Sarsour’s comment blaming Jews for police shootings of unarmed black people was among the examples, including language directly from the our original exclusive report. It also showed how Tamika Mallory has stood by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, despite his repeated antisemitic slurs calling Jews “bloodsuckers” and “termites.”
Sarsour posted an open letter online Sunday evening, trying to put questions about Farrakhan behind her. She failed to directly condemn Farrakhan’s antisemitism, however, saying he can defend himself. As for the the Women’s March, she insisted, “we REJECT antisemitism and all forms of racism.” [Emphasis original]
Sarsour’s own comments over the past three months alone make this assertion laughable. Let’s go back to what she said about police shootings during a speech at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) convention on Labor Day weekend. Sarsour was justifying her criticism of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a 105-year-old Jewish organization devoted to fighting antisemitism and other forms of hate.
The ADL also sponsors a National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Israel, giving American police department leaders a chance to learn counter-terrorism strategies from Israeli officials with more experience. To Sarsour, this is sinister.
The ADL, she said, “takes police officers from America, funds their trips, takes them to Israel so they can be trained by the Israeli police and military, and then they come back here and do what? Stop and frisk, killing unarmed black people across the country.”
There is zero evidence linking any police shooting to the training seminar, which is run and funded by Jews.
Her open letter makes no mention of these comments. Neither do they address a Facebook post she made on Thursday evening, which again made her hatred of Jews clear. She urged followers to sign a petition defending incoming Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn). During her primary campaign, Omar told voters she supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and didn’t think BDS helped move in that direction. Now that she’s been elected, however, Omar has flipped and publicly stated her support for BDS.
To Sarsour, any critics of Omar “always choose their allegiance to Israel over their commitment to democracy and free speech.”
This kind of dual-loyalty accusation is another antisemitic trope used to attack Jews throughout history, and it’s consistent with Sarsour’s bigotry detailed in the Friedrich Ebert Foundation letter.
Sarsour calls herself “an unapologetic pro-BDS, one-state solution” supporter. BDS singles out the world’s only Jewish state for an economic, political, and intellectual boycott. And a one-state solution as Sarsour envisions would eliminate Israel’s Jewish majority, ending the country’s status as a refuge for Jews from global antisemitism.
Ben & Jerry’s clearly believes that Sarsour and the Women’s March still merit support, and that’s their right. But it’s also fair to suggest that they could find other women’s movements to support that don’t have the Women’s March’s baggage and questionable views.
There are endless feminist leaders out there who can run the Women’s March, advocating for the same causes, but don’t find Zionists “creepy” and can muster the temerity to say Louis Farrakhan’s clear and repeated views on Jews, homosexuals, and others are unacceptable in a liberal, feminist movement.
Yet the current leaders refuse to put the good of their movement ahead of advancing their own profiles.
Steven Emerson is considered one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks, financing, and operations. He serves as the Executive Director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, a non-profit organization that serves one of the world’s largest storehouses of archival data and intelligence on Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups.