Tuesday, May 24th | 23 Iyyar 5782

August 5, 2021 3:21 pm

Ben & Jerry’s Franchisees Running 30 US Stores Call on Company to Reverse West Bank Boycott

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A refrigerator bearing the Ben & Jerry’s logo is seen at a food store in the Jewish settlement of Efrat in the West Bank July 20, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Ben & Jerry’s franchisees in the United States said in a letter to the ice-cream maker on Wednesday that the company’s decision to stop selling its products in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem should be “re-examined and withdrawn.”

The franchisees, which operate a total of 30 stores, wrote in a letter sent to Ben & Jerry’s officials that the move “not only distorts the situation on the ground … it has imposed, and will continue to impose, substantial financial costs on all of us.”

The letter was addressed to Ben & Jerry’s CEO, director of social mission, director of global retail operations, and head of US retail and global strategy.

“More importantly, the controversy your recent actions have brought upon our local businesses has had an adverse effect on the value of our independently owned franchises and investments,” it continued.

The franchisees that penned the letter included several current and former members of the Franchise Advisory Council, and one Jewish owner that vowed to donate a percentage of profits from his New York location to “Israel educational causes.”

They wrote that “singling out one set of claims and one narrative as the correct one is fine for propagandists, but it does not advance social justice as we see it.”

The franchisees described how the company’s decision has taken a personal toll on them, writing, “Friends and family, neighbors and other businesses we work with have shamed us personally for doing business with not just a company that purposefully draws controversy, but with one that continues to consider the calculated negative affect on its franchisees as acceptable collateral damage,” they said.

“Those who feel so strongly about Israel that they want to boycott it or some part of the territory it administers are free to do so. They cannot, however, do that at our expense.”

The authors said they bring in a total revenue of $23.3 million and have a cumulative 250 years of partnership with Ben & Jerry’s.

The American Jewish Committee said on Thursday that it helped prepare the letter.

“Tagging one side with all responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may make self-described social justice advocates proud, but it advances neither peace nor justice,” AJC Chief Legal Officer Marc D. Stern wrote in a New York Times letter to the editor on Tuesday. “Ben & Jerry’s decision not to sell ice cream in the Israeli-occupied territories is a profoundly wrong move.”

Jim Leikin, one of the Jewish franchisees that signed the letter, called the board of Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, “very antisemitic” and added, “I think the conflict that’s going on in Israel and the disagreements are just an excuse to display their antisemitism.”

Leikin, who has owned a Ben & Jerry’s franchise on the campus of John Carroll University in Ohio for over 15 years, said he got involved in the advocacy against Ben & Jerry’s because “I see this as an opportunity for myself to get involved in the growing sense of antisemitism in America,” he told the Cleveland Jewish News.

“The Jewish people are a family,” Leikin explained. “We tend to fight a lot, and we shouldn’t. And the Jewish people need to get behind each other on all these issues. No matter what your political beliefs are, no matter what your religious beliefs are, religious, non-religious, Conservative or Reform, this is an issue right here in Cleveland that the whole Jewish community can get behind.”

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