August 3, 2021 — New York
This piece originally appeared in The New York Times.
To the Editor:
Re “Men of Ice Cream, Men of Principle,” by Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Opinion guest essay, Sunday Review, Aug. 1):
Ben & Jerry’s decision not to sell ice cream in the Israeli-occupied territories is a profoundly wrong move.
The corporate decision the writers defend applies economic and moral coercion to one side of a complex conflict, with competing equities and narratives. It wholly ignores, for example, several peace plans put on the table by Israel, endorsed by the United States and rejected by the Palestinian leadership.
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.
To rebut the charge of anti-Semitism, Ben and Jerry draw a distinction between not doing business in Israel, which they agree would be wrong, and refraining from business in the West Bank.
The chair of the company’s board of directors has publicly said it wanted to boycott Israel but was overruled (wrongly she believed) by its parent company, Unilever, and now may do so only under unspecified arrangements.
The failure of Ben and Jerry to address that reality fatally undercuts their argument.
Marc D. Stern
The writer is chief legal officer of the American Jewish Committee.