US Jewish org applauds stand taken by Ben & Jerry's franchisees

Thirty American franchises send letter to Ben & Jerry's executives denouncing company's decision to boycott Judea and Samaria.

Dan Verbin ,

Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor
Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) praised a group of Ben & Jerry’s franchisees in the United States who are urging the company to reconsider its decision to boycott Judea and Samaria.

In a letter signed by multiple franchises sent to Ben & Jerry’s executives, the franchisees wrote, “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.”

They went on to explain the decision’s harm to them personally and to their businesses.

“There is a danger in 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,” they said.

The franchisees behind the letter own 30 Ben & Jerry’s locations with a total revenue of $23.3 million.

They wrote that they were “proud to be part of a company that highlights values as a part of its mission” but the “imposition of such narrow prescriptions does not advance social justice, or the pursuit of a values led business in any meaningful way.”

“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,” they said. “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.”

They added that their families and communities “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 American Jewish Committee applauded the letter, noting that the franchisees had approached them for help with drafting the letter which was addressed to Ben & Jerry’s CEO, Director of Social Mission, Director of Global Retail Operations, and Head of U.S. Retail and Global Strategy.

AJC Chief Legal Officer Marc D. Stern lauded the franchisees for their courage in directly taking the company to task.

“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,” Stern wrote in a letter to the editor published in the New York Times on Thursday in response to the Ben & Jerry’s co-founders' Times opinion piece defending their company’s decision.

Stern noted that while the co-founders claimed the company’s intent is only to stop serving Judea and Samaria, and not all of Israel, “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.”

Jake Novak, the Broadcast Media Director for the Consulate General of Israel in New York, said on Twitter that the franchisees letter was “very, very important.”

“Franchisees often take their franchise owners to court over stuff like this,” he tweeted. “There are lawyers who specialize in these kinds of cases and win. This is a red flag for [Ben & Jerry’s] parent company.”