The board of ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s is calling for a “permanent and immediate” ceasefire in Gaza, potentially becoming the largest multinational corporation to do so as the Palestinian death toll amid Israel’s assault nears 25,000.
“Peace is a core value of Ben & Jerry’s,” Ben & Jerry’s board chair Anuradha Mittal told the Financial Times in an article published this week. “From Iraq to Ukraine [the company] has consistently stood up for these principles. Today is no different as we call for peace and a permanent and immediate ceasefire.”
Mittal went on to say that international business leaders’ failure to speak out on the issue is glaring. “It is stunning that millions are marching around the world but the corporate world has been silent,” Mittal said.
Ben & Jerry’s has a long history of advocacy concerning progressive issues, and in 2021 announced that it was ending sales in the occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem — a move that the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement said was one of their largest victories. The move created swift backlash from Zionists and Israeli leaders, who criticized Ben & Jerry’s and accused the company of being antisemitic, in spite of the fact that both the company and advocates for Palestine made it clear that it is dangerous to conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism.
The company also faced pressure from pro-Palestine groups who said that Ben & Jerry’s should go further and stop selling its products in Israel as well. However, at the same time, Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever swiftly moved to force the company to continue to do business with the Israeli occupation, selling its Israeli operation to a local businessman.
Ben & Jerry’s filed a lawsuit to stop Unilever from selling its products in the occupied territories, but a U.S. federal judge rejected that bid in 2022 and Unilever announced later that the lawsuit had been resolved, with nothing seemingly having been changed with the arrangement.
The ice cream brand’s announcement comes over 100 days into Israel’s current brutal assault on Gaza, with over 100,000 Palestinians killed, injured or missing under the rubble, and Israeli leaders pledging that “no one will stop us,” not even the International Court of Justice.
A number of smaller companies have called for a ceasefire and have participated in protests and signed statements calling for an end to the siege. At the same time, however, there have been very few large corporations speaking out, if any, with a widespread suppression of pro-Palestinian voices happening across the U.S. The suppression of pro-Palestinian advocates is deeply embedded in the U.S., with some states outlawing companies from participating in BDS.
Still, other major organizations have spoken out, with labor unions putting forth an especially prominent voice. United Auto Workers is the largest union to join the calls for a ceasefire, with other unions like the American Postal Workers Union, the Chicago Teachers Union, United Electrical Workers, and others in agreement.At the same time, advocates for Palestinian rights have also ramped up their efforts to boycott or divest from companies as part of BDS, with companies like McDonald’s, SodaStream, and a number of others that have documented ties to Israel and its occupation.