Ben & Jerry’s board chairwoman isn’t your average corporate suit. A social justice warrior who’s now under increased scrutiny in the wake of the company’s announcement that it will boycott Israel’s West Bank and East Jerusalem, she has a lengthy history of left-wing activism that includes publishing columns defending Hezbollah and supporting U.S. funding to Hamas.
Anuradha Mittal, the leading force behind the ice cream company’s decision to stop selling its products in parts of Israel, founded the Oakland Institute, which describes itself as an “independent policy think tank,” in 2004 and serves as its executive director. The group has published articles defending Hezbollah and Hamas, terrorist groups that seek the destruction of the Jewish state.
Ben & Jerry’s is under increased scrutiny for its decision to join the anti-Israel boycott movement, which follows criticism over the ice cream maker’s partnership with anti-Semitic figures during the Women’s March in 2018. At the time, the company defended its work with Linda Sarsour, one of the march leaders who was ousted for anti-Semitism. Multiple state and local governments, including Texas and Florida, are considering sanctioning Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, over the boycott decision.
Mittal published an article written by Green Party Senate candidate Todd Chretien during the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006 arguing that progressives should support Hezbollah.
“You do not have to agree with all of Hezbollah’s ideas to support their resistance to Israel,” wrote Chretien. “Condemning ‘both sides’ in the Middle East is just like condemning ‘both sides’ in the American Civil War. During the Civil War, with all its complications, one side fought for slavery and the other fought for emancipation. Today in the Middle East, one side fights to rob and pillage, the other seeks self-determination and dignity.”
Chretien added that Hezbollah’s actions would encourage militants who were fighting U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
“Hezbollah has emerged as the hero to millions of Arabs and Muslims. Hezbollah’s fight will encourage the resistance in Iraq and it will give a boost to opposition forces in Egypt, Jordan and other American client states,” he wrote.
In a “policy brief” published the same year, Mittal expressed concern that the U.S. government would cut off funding to the recently elected Hamas government, which had just won control of Gaza.
“The U.S. has threatened to sever humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine for exercising their right to vote,” wrote Mittal. She argued that this decision would end up “bankrupting” Hamas, which had “assured the international community that all aid revenues will be used on salaries, daily lives, and infrastructure.”
Other articles published by the Oakland Institute claimed that Israel’s strike on Hezbollah was part of a years-long plan to “allow the Cheney/Rumsfeld war party to once again take control” and argued for “a voluntary and sensitive integration of Hezbollah into a reformed, viable Lebanese political arrangement.”
The Oakland Institute also published a series of reports in 2017 accusing Israel of humanitarian crimes. The series included a lengthy interview with Bassem Tamimi, a Palestinian man who was convicted of organizing stone-throwing attacks against Israeli soldiers and has promoted claims that Israel arrests Palestinian children in order to “steal their organs.”
Ben & Jerry’s, which is owned by Unilever but maintains an independent board, announced that it would stop selling its products “in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” Selling products there, it said, would be “inconsistent with our values.” The company said it would continue to operate “in Israel through a different arrangement,” which would be announced at a later time.
Mittal said the statement was watered down by Unilever and didn’t reflect the views of the independent board, which intended to boycott sales in the entire country of Israel.
Mittal’s Twitter feed also shows her long-standing anti-Israel views. She has posted in support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, praised singer Shakira for canceling a performance in Israel, and defended Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D., Minn.) claim that pro-Israel members of Congress have an “allegiance” to a foreign government. Omar’s remarks were denounced as anti-Semitic by members of her own party and prompted the House to pass a resolution against hate and intolerance.
“Criticism of AIPAC is not anti-semitic & calling for Congress not to have allegiances to foreign countries (Israel) is not anti-semitic,” Mittal wrote in March 2019, “but targeting the first black Muslim member of Congress with false accusations of antisemitism IS Islamophobic!”
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