Two scoops, one story: Dispute over claim Ben & Jerry's makes workers watch videos on Israel

It remains a point of contention whether Israel lecture videos are part of mandatory job training, but all parties agree Ben & Jerry’s does provide lectures on the subject to employees.

Ben & Jerry's ice cream (Illustrative) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Ben & Jerry's ice cream (Illustrative)
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Two competing reports were published this week regarding the claim that ice cream company Ben & Jerry's makes new employees watch video lectures on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of their job orientation.

Jewish Insider made the claim on Monday that Ben & Jerry's workers had to watch four video lectures on Israel and the Palestinians — But on Thursday the Forward asserted that the story was untrue. 

A spokesperson for Ben & Jerry’s told the Forward there was no requirement for any employees to watch any videos about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"We stand by our reporting earlier this week that Ben & Jerry’s requires new employees to watch a series of videos on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Melissa Weiss, Jewish Insider

Two scoops, one story

According to a Ben & Jerry’s employee that spoke to the Insider, the instructional videos were part of a series of company lectures called “Scooper Series: Social Mission" that addressed several social issues.

One of these videos featured Omar Shakir,  Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director who was deported from Israel over alleged Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement activism.

EATING BEN & JERRY'S ice cream in Jerusalem earlier this week (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)EATING BEN & JERRY'S ice cream in Jerusalem earlier this week (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

In a segment of the video shared by the Insider, Shakir — who has been a harsh critic of Israel and its policies — explained how Israel has a concerted discriminatory policy of forcing Palestinians from homes.

Shakir — who according to journalist Deborah Gastfreund Schuss advised the ice cream manufacturer on its 2021 boycott of the West Bank and east Jerusalem — told the Forward that the Insider's report was inaccurate. 

While Ben & Jerry's did not respond to the Inisder's inquiries, the "chunkey monkey" maker's spokesperson said to the Forwad that Shakir gave an almost hour and a half talk that was recorded, but it was a voluntary one-time lunch lecture. 

Melissa Weiss, the author of the Insider report, rejected criticism of the story and provided a screenshot of what was ostensibly Ben & Jerry's video series on social issues.

"We stand by our reporting earlier this week that Ben & Jerry’s requires new employees to watch a series of videos on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Tweeted Weiss. "One Ben & Jerry's employee who viewed the video also provided the below screenshot, which lists the four Israel-Palestine videos."

It remains a point of contention whether the videos are part of mandatory job training, but Ben & Jerry’s, the Forward, and Weiss all agree that the ice cream maker was involved in providing lectures to workers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict involving a controversial activist.

Chilled public relations

The dispute between the Forward and Jewish Insider is not the only bad item of public relations for Ben & Jerry's this week.

On Wednesday, Ben & Jerry's parent company Unilever was sued by a US shareholder who asserted that they had mishandled the decision by its subsidiary to stop selling its product in disputed territories. 

The shareholder holds that Unilever improperly concealed the decision prior to its announcement to avoid divestment from US states.

On July 19, 2021, Ben & Jerry's announced that it would end sales in the "Occupied Palestinian Territory" as they believed it was inconsistent with the company's values. Ben & Jerry's ice cream continues to be sold in what they recognize as Israel proper.