All Things Political: Boycott all products owned by the Unilever Corporation

Adam Haber

On July 19, Ben & Jerry’s website issued the following statement: “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” In response, I am issuing this statement: All consumers should boycott Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and all other Unilever products. Here’s why.

If you don’t already know this, Unilever has a well-established history of consumer violations. In 2011, Unilever was fined 104 million euros by the European Commission after admitting to running a price-fixing scheme on laundry detergents. Just a few years later, in 2017 (after more than a decade of legal wrangling), Unilever settled a lawsuit with almost 600 workers in India for allowing mercury exposure at a now closed thermometer plant. And as recent as January of this year, Unilever was fined 30 billion rupiah in Indonesia for trademark infringement.

Price fixing, unsafe working environments and trademark infringement demonstrate a pattern of shameful corporate values. In fact, the website lists 35 offenses for the Unilever corporation. Among them are offenses related to the environment, employment, workplace safety and consumer protections. Sadly, the only corporate values Ben & Jerry’s and their parent company Unilever are showing by stopping the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the occupied territories is antisemitism.

Just last month NBC News reported these human rights violations in China: “More than one million Uighur and other minorities from Xinjiang are believed to be held in internment camps, where they are forced to study Marxism, renounce their religion, work in factories and face abuse, according to human rights groups and first-hand accounts.” Meanwhile, Unilever will not condemn China for these horrific human rights abuses because too much money is at stake.

There are roughly 1.4 billion citizens in China and a mere 9.3 million in Israel. Israeli practices in the occupied territories are easy to attack with little financial repercussions because their contribution from such a small population to Unilever’s bottom line is barely noticed. If Unilever had real “values,” they would issue a statement condemning China’s human rights abuses and withdraw all its operations there. Unilever also sells products in Russia, Iran and Syria, all countries rife with human rights abuses, where the rule of law is ignored.

Truth be told, there is a long and complicated history with Israel and the occupied territories. I do know if the Arab world recognized Israel’s right to exist and stopped trying to destroy it, a solution in the occupied territories would be easier to negotiate.

Israel has been under attack with attempts to wipe it off the face of the Earth since its birth in 1948. The 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the 1967 Six-Day War, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, close to 15 years of conflict with Lebanon from 1985-2000, the first and second Intifadas from 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, and more recently several armed conflicts around Gaza.

Israel is doing what it believes it must, albeit imperfectly, to survive. That survival includes moving into the occupied territories. Unilever’s condemnation of Israel’s expansion into the occupied territory, while ignoring what goes on in China, Russia, Iran and Syria, demonstrates a lack of consistent values.

I am switching my ice cream consumption from Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food to Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter. Furthermore, I will no longer patronize Unilever brands such as Dove, Lipton, Tazo, Hellmann’s or Breyers. Thoughtful consumers should do the same, until Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever issue an apology for their antisemitic statement and disingenuous corporate values against Israel.

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