News and Commentary

Backlash From Inside Ben & Jerry’s: Franchisees Losing Money, Want Israel Boycott Gone

"... 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."
An Israeli flag is set atop a delivery truck outside US ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry's factory in Be'er Tuvia, on July 21, 2021. - Ben & Jerry's announced that it will stop selling ice cream in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories since it was "inconsistent with our values", although it said it planned to keep selling its products in Israel. The West Bank and East Jerusalem have been under Israeli control since 1967. Roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, in communities widely regarded as illegal under international law, alongside some 2.8 million Palestinians. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

After huge backlash to the decision by Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, to impose a boycott of the Biblical areas of Judea and Samaria in Israel, Ben & Jerry’s franchisees located in major American cities that operate 30 stores with a total of $23.3 million in revenue annually wrote a letter asking Unilever to rescind the boycott, not for any moral reason, but because they were losing money.

“There is a danger that the pursuit of social justice will descend into political correctness or result in the adoption of overly simplistic solutions by people who share a single view of the world that misconstrue complex problems in which multiple claims of justice are implicated,” the letter stated. “The imposition of such narrow prescriptions does not advance social justice or the pursuit of a values-led business in any meaningful way.”

After arguing that there are “multiple and conflicting claims of justice made” about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the letter complained:

The decision that has been made to terminate the contract with Ben & Jerry’s licensee in Israel not only distorts the situation on the ground—it has imposed and will to continue to impose, substantial financial costs on all of us. 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. … Friends and family, neighbors and other businesses we work with have shamed us personally for doing business not just with a company that draws controversy, but with one that continues to consider the calculated negative affect on its franchisees as acceptable collateral damage.

The letter concluded, “Those who feel 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. We believe this decision needs to be re-examined and withdrawn.”

As The Jewish Journal reported, “Jake Novak, the Broadcast Media Director for the Israeli Consulate General of New York, tweeted that the letter is ‘very, very important’ because ‘franchisees often take their franchise owners to court over stuff like this. There are lawyers who specialize in these kinds of cases and win. This is a red flag for #Benandjerrys parent company.’”

This week, Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis issued a warning to Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, that they had 90 days to reverse the company’s boycott targeting Israel or else face harsh consequences, including Florida barring state pension funds holding investments in Unilever.

The state board of administration of Florida, which is comprised of DeSantis, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Attorney General Ashley Moody, issued a letter that detailed the steps the state would take to punish Unilever for its decision to boycott the Biblical areas of Judea and Samaria in Israel.

DeSantis stated, “By placing Ben & Jerry’s Fortune 500 parent company Unilever on our List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel, Florida is sending a message to corporate America that we will defend our strong relationship with the Jewish State. I will not stand idly by as woke corporate ideologues seek to boycott and divest from our ally, Israel,” as the Orlando Weekly reported.

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