Ben & Jerry's makes employees watch videos about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, report

The ice cream maker announced last year it would no longer sell its products in "Occupied Palestinian Territory."

Updated: June 16, 2022 - 9:02am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

All new employees of ice cream company Ben & Jerry's must watch a series of lectures by activists involved with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to news reports.

One of the lectures in the "Scooper Series: Social Mission" lineup is reportedly delivered by Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch, who has been expelled from Israel for supporting boycotts of the country.

"If you look at the recent escalation that took place in May of 2021, it started over discriminatory efforts to force Palestinians out of their homes in occupied East Jerusalem as part of this larger policy," Shakir says in the video.

"Although the Israeli government withdrew its settler population and ground forces in 2005, the Israeli government continues to exercise control over Gaza," he continues. "And our study of Israeli policy over the last 16 years shows that it sought as [well as] pursued a written policy of separation between Gaza and the West Bank.

"Its enforcement of this policy largely aims to prevent Gaza residents from moving to the West Bank as part of a policy to remove the large Palestinian population in Gaza – 2 million people living in a 25-by-seven-mile territory – off Israel’s demographic balance sheet."

Ben & Jerry's was founded in Burlington, Vermont, in 1978 by two New York men whose fledging, shoe-string operating grew into an American entrepreneurial success story. The company was sold in 2000 and is now part of the British-based, international conglomerate Unilever.

Last year, the company, whose U.S. headquarters is still in Vermont, caused a stir when it announced that it would no longer sell its products in the "Occupied Palestinian Territory," referring to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Shakir reportedly counseled the company ahead of that decision. 

The decision prompted a lawsuit from the company's Israeli manufacturer and delivered, American Quality Products, as well as a number of U.S. states (New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Florida), which said they would divest from Unilever if the ban held. 

Last week, New York Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul offered Unilever a final warning before the state pulls its $111 million in shares from the conglomerate.

Ben & Jerry's has no boycotts against any other areas of the world in conflict and still sells its products in other disputed areas across the world including Tibet, Crimea, Kashmir, and the Western Sahara. Unilever also sells other products in the West Bank.