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Longtime graphic designer for Ben & Jerry’s quits over settlement boycott

NY-based Susannah Levin, a contractor for the company, says decision by ice cream giant is part of ‘despicable trend’ of anti-Zionism

Ice cream containers at the Ben and Jerry's factory near Kiryat Malakhi, on July 21, 2021. (Flash90)
Ice cream containers at the Ben and Jerry's factory near Kiryat Malakhi, on July 21, 2021. (Flash90)

A longtime graphic designer for ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s announced that she is quitting the company after 21 years, saying its decision to halt sales in Israeli settlements was part of a “despicable trend” of anti-Zionism, which she believes to be a new form of antisemitism.

Susannah Levin of New York has worked as a contractor for Ben & Jerry’s since 2000. This week she announced on Facebook that she left the company.

“Effective immediately, I have quit my job of 21 years at Ben & Jerry’s, over the statement on Israel. If you want to get an idea of why, please watch this wonderful video by the great Rabbi Jonathon [sic] Sacks,” Levin wrote.

She then linked to a five-minute video of the late Lord Sacks speaking about the connection between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

“He explains how anti-Zionism IS the new antisemitism. My company’s response is part of this despicable trend and I will have no part of it,” wrote Levin in her post.

Ben & Jerry’s announced on Monday that it will no longer sell its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” apparently referring to West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem.

Trucks are parked at the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream factory in the Be’er Tuvia Industrial area, on July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The announcement triggered a storm on social media and a row with the Israeli government, which has condemned the decision, accusing the company of joining a global Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel.

“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners,” the company said.

Containers at the Ben and Jerry’s factory near Kiryat Malakhi, on July 21, 2021. (Flash90)

The decision is set to take effect at the end of 2022, when its contract with the current Israeli manufacturer and distributor expires. The future of Ben & Jerry’s products across Israel beginning in 2023 remains in question.

Ben & Jerry’s Israeli manufacturer opposes the decision and has vowed to continue to sell throughout all of Israel for the remainder of its contract.

Jerusalem has meanwhile urged 35 American states with anti-boycott laws to punish Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s.

The chief executive of Unilever said on Thursday that the global consumer goods giant remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel, distancing himself from the Ben & Jerry’s announcement.

But CEO Alan Jope gave no indication that Unilever would force Ben & Jerry’s to roll back its controversial decision. In a conference call with investors, Jope said that Ben & Jerry’s, which has a long history of social activism, made the decision on its own.

Screen capture from video of Unilever CEO Alan Jope, December 2020. (YouTube)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke personally with Jope on Monday to complain about the development and vow a “vigorous” response, stressing that Ben and Jerry’s was taking a “clearly anti-Israeli step.”

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday that Israel is working to initiate a grassroots boycott of Ben & Jerry’s in the United States by Jewish, evangelical and pro-Israel groups.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked tours the Ben and Jerry’s factory near Kiryat Malakhi, on July 21, 2021. (Flash90)

In addition, Israel ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan sent letters to the governors of 35 US states earlier this week, urging them to apply local laws against boycotting Israel.

The states that have passed anti-BDS legislation include Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, California, Maryland and Texas — but not Vermont, where Ben & Jerry’s is headquartered.

Five US states have begun examining whether Ben & Jerry’s decision triggered laws passed in recent years to combat BDS.

Officials in Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey and Illinois are reviewing whether the move will require divestment from Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever under their various state laws.

AP and JTA contributed to this report.

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