(JTA) In an interview that aired on HBO, both of the founders of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand reiterated that they stand behind the company’s decision to stop selling their products in the West Bank.
But for Jerry Greenfield, being accused of antisemitism is “painful.” For Ben Cohen, it’s “absurd.”
“I think Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever are being characterized as boycotting Israel, which is not the case at all. It’s not boycotting Israel in any way,” Greenfield said in an interview with Axios that aired on its HBO show the night of Sunday the 10th.
The Jewish duo, who founded the company in 1978, are no longer its owners, but they remain the most recognizable public faces of the company. They had previously defended the West Bank decision in a New York Times op-ed shortly after the move took place in July, but the Axios interview gave them a chance to expound on the human side of the aftermath.
“I understand people being upset, it’s a very emotional issue for a lot of people and I totally understand it and it’s a very painful issue for a lot of people,” Greenfield said.
They were also asked how it felt to be “wrapped up in accusations of antisemitism.”
“Totally fine,” Cohen said, laughing. “It’s absurd. What, I’m anti-Jewish? I’m a Jew! All my family is Jewish, my friends are Jewish.”
Ben & Jerry’s had long been engaged in social issues when it decided to pull its product from the West Bank, after months of pressure from pro-Palestinian activists in the wake of Israel’s latest armed conflict with Gaza. The decision prompted calls to boycott Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever, along with accusations of antisemitism from some pro-Israel activists. The state of Arizona divested nearly two hundred million USD from Unilever in September, and several other states have since reviewed their investments in the conglomerate.