Ben & Jerry’s board chair Anuradha Mittal spoke out for the first time since the ice-cream company announced that it would no longer sell its product in “occupied Palestinian territory,” where she rejected calls that the move was anti-Semitic.
“I am proud of @benandjerrys for taking a stance to end the sale of its ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This action is not anti-Semitic. I am not anti-Semitic. The vile hate that has been thrown at me does it intimidate me,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Pls work for peace-not hatred,” she added.
Mittal went on to say that she has received “vile hate” and that she is not “intimidated” by it.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid calling Ben & Jerry’s move “a shameful surrender to anti-Semitism.” Israeli President Isaac Herzog calling it “economic terrorism.”
Mittal has a history of supporting anti-Israel causes and publishing anti-Israel reports. In addition to her role at Ben & Jerry’s, she is the founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute, which has a history of anti-Israel stances. She helped author the Oakland Institute’s “Palestine for Land & Life,” a series containing nine different reports accusing Israel of apartheid, colonialism and land-grabbing.
Mittal has used her role at Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to fund the Oakland Institute and its projects, including anti-Israel organizations. For example, in 2017, the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation donated $3,000 to the Oakland Institute earmarked for Badil, a Palestinian organization dedicated to the Palestinian right of return.
Mittal has also posted anti-Israel content and support for the BDS movement on her personal Twitter account, including calling for the U.S. government to end aid to Israel and supporting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and her anti-Semitic rhetoric.
On Tuesday, Mittal also tweeted a statement of support from progressive Jewish groups, as well as a portion of Unilever’s, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, statement emphasizing a “clear distinction” between Israel and the disputed territories.
Unilever CEO Alan Jope sent a letter to several Jewish groups on Tuesday, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Anti-Defamation League, saying that the company “rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any forms of discrimination or intolerance. Anti-Semitism has no place in any society. We have never expressed any support for the BDS movement and have no intention of changing that position.”
He added that Unilever remains “fully committed” to its colleagues and customers in Israel.
Still, the Conference of Presidents said Unilever’s response does not go “far enough.”
“Unilever reportedly has the legal ability to override the recommendation of Ben & Jerry’s board to boycott Israel. We again strongly encourage them to do so, as boycotts of Israel are discriminatory and further inflame tensions,” said the Conference of Presidents.
Ben & Jerry’s has been owned by Unilever since 2000. However, under a unique arrangement, the company has the right to make independent decisions regarding branding and social justice.