Ice cream is not the obvious choice of weapon for political resistance, but it is being deployed by Ben & Jerry’s in the US against Donald Trump — turning up the heat on the company’s franchise in Israel, where the US president is very popular.
Ben & Jerry’s, known for its laid-back vibe, progressive values and goofy celebrity flavors — like Cherry Garcia named for Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia — this week launched “PeCAN Resist!” to support anti-Trump groups.
One of the groups listed to benefit from the proceeds of the ice cream sales was the Women’s March, a movement led by, among others, two women who have questioned Israel’s right to exist and backed boycotts of the Jewish state, and one of whom supports the openly anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
“Ben & Jerry’s feels that it cannot be silent in the face of President Trump’s policies that attack and attempt to roll back decades of progress on racial and gender equity, climate change, LGBTQ rights, and refugee and immigrant rights,” the ice cream maker said in a statement.
Consumers were urged to “Join the resistance.”
We are proud to announce that our newest flavor, Pecan Resist, supports the important work of @netargv, @womensmarch, @ColorOfChange, and @HonorTheEarth. Join them here >> https://t.co/b7mu4tVPYE pic.twitter.com/8fFJ6vL3vF
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) October 30, 2018
We were thrilled to launch a new flavor with our friends @ColorOfChange, @HonorTheEarth, @netargv, and @womensmarch yesterday. Welcome Pecan Resist, a first of it's kind pint! pic.twitter.com/hpUwoZCN5K
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) October 31, 2018
The move met with criticism in Israel, where popular Israeli far-right Facebook personality Yoav Eliasi, also known as The Shadow, condemned the implied support of Women’s March senior leaders Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour. In a post to his page, Eliasi called for a boycott of all Ben & Jerry’s products until the company retracts its decision.
“It is hard, I know — for me as well,” he acknowledged. He urged his followers to check out offerings by the ice cream brand Haagen-Dazs.
The post was shared over 1,200 times by Thursday morning, and in comments posted by some of The Shadow’s nearly 400,000 followers, many said they would no longer buy Ben & Jerry’s products.
“Bye bye to you. I very much liked you ice creams but from today I will find an alternative,” wrote one follower.
Others took to Twitter to register their dissatisfaction, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
— SimonWiesenthalCntr (@simonwiesenthal) October 31, 2018
— Michael Caplan (@mcaplan86) October 31, 2018
Who knew that Ben & Jerry’s would align the company with people who idolize the bigot Louis Farrakhan and seek the destruction of Israel. This is just so offensive and hurtful. Sad that I will never ever be able to enjoy Phish Food or any of your other flavors again.
— ModernMaccabi (@ModernMaccabi) October 31, 2018
In a statement responding to Eliasi’s post, the Israeli Ben & Jerry’s franchise assured its followers that it had no plans to market Pecan Resist in Israel.
“Ben & Jerry’s Israel is not involved in local or global politics and we have no connection to the move made by the Ben & Jerry’s company in the US,” it said. “We do not intend to market in Israel the flavor discussed.”
The company debuted the new flavor — chocolate ice cream with white and dark fudge chunks, pecans, walnuts and fudge-covered almonds — with an ice cream truck in Washington this week.
The flavor, “celebrating the activists who are continuing to resist oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice,” comes with $25,000 in donations to four activist groups.
Women’s March anti-Israel leadership
Women’s March co-president Mallory questioned the legitimacy of Israel after visiting the country earlier this year and has also tweeted support of Farrakhan.
In April, Mallory attacked Starbucks for including the Anti-Defamation League among its advisers on bias. In a tweet she accused the Jewish group of “constantly attacking black and brown people.”
The following month, Mallory said in a tweet that Trump’s so-called Muslim ban and plan for a wall on the border with Mexico were inspired directly by the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a video address in June, Mallory called the establishment of Israel in 1948 a “human rights crime.”
Mallory has also posted a photo of herself with Farrakhan on social media and attended a speech in which he declared that “powerful Jews are my enemy” and that he had “pulled the cover off the eyes of the satanic Jew.”
Sarsour, another co-organizer of the Women’s March, has been a harsh critic of Israel and a vocal supporter of the the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, known as BDS.
Soon after the 2017 Women’s March, Sarsour, who is of Palestinian descent, drew fire from Jewish leaders for telling The Nation that unabashed supporters of Israel cannot be feminists.
In response to criticism of its support for the Women’s March, Ben & Jerry’s said it was “comfortable” with the “controversial” nature of the selected groups.
“We’re comfortable with the idea that the people and the causes we partner with may have a point of view different from our own on some issues,” the statement said. “They can be controversial, just as we can.”
PeCAN Resist! will be available for a limited time at Ben & Jerry’s stores and online, a spokeswoman said.
Company founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield — who sold the firm to Unilever in 2000 — took the idea a step further, creating seven flavors for progressive candidates running for office against Republicans in US midterm elections on Tuesday.
In a video that showed the men making ice cream in a kitchen, Cohen said they support “awesome progressive candidates that can stop Trump and change Congress.”
The flavors include Lauren’s Calling or Underwood for the Greater Good, an apple pie, caramel and pecan flavor topped with a Girl Scout cookie for Lauren Underwood a Democrat running for Congress outside Chicago.
Another is Ammar-etto American Dream, made with coffee — “’cause this guy is gonna jolt the system” — biscotti and amaretto, for California candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar.
And JD Scholten’s Grand Slam Homer has caramel corn “to symbolize his commitment to Iowa’s farmers and the rural community,” Cohen said.