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Thursday, March 17, 2022
Fake News: CNS' Claim That Ice Cream Withdrawal From Occupied Territories Tanked Owner's Stock Isn't True
Topic: spent a notable part of the past several months being incensed over the decision of Ben & Jerry's ice cream deciding not to no longer sell its ice cream in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel:

  • Patrick Goodenough highlighted how "Israel responded frostily to Ben & Jerry’s announcement Monday that it will stop selling its ice cream in the disputed territories, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid appealing to U.S. states that have passed anti-BDS measures to enforce them against the “progressive” Vermont-based company."
  • Loopy rabbi Aryeh Spero framed the disputed territories as "the biblical regions of Judea and Samaria" and declared that "Singling out the Jewish people or the Jewish nation for boycott and divestment is blatant anti-Semitism and not social justice." Given that both Ben and Jerry are Jewish, Spero's claim that what they're doing is "anti-Semitism" is absurd.
  • Goodenough cheered that "Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday set in motion a process that could result in the state being prohibited from buying any assets in the ice cream maker’s British-based parent company."

Managing editor Michael W. Chapman wrote in September that "Because ice cream giant Ben & Jerry's decided to boycott Israel by ending sales of its product in the "Occupied Palestinian Territory," the Arizona Treasurer's Office is pulling all of its state funds from Ben & Jerry's parent company. It is against Arizona law for the state to invest in entities that boycott Israel." Actually, the ice cream will continue to be sold in Israel, making his claim that it's doing a "boycott" of Israel factually inaccurate. Chapman went on to play whataboutism: "Although Ben & Jerry's claims it has a 'long history of advocating for human rights, and economic and social justice,' it has made no effort to boycott Communist China, which has killed 65 million of its own people for political reasons, and operates concentration camps."

Chapman similarly cheered in a Dec. 27 atticle when Illinois pulled its funds from Ben & Jerry's owner, Unilever, over the decision to stop selling ice cream in the "so-called occupied territories." Chapman repeated his whataboutism: "Ironically, Ben & Jerry's has taken no action to cease sales in Communist China, which operates concentration camps, forced abortion, sterilization, and organ harvesting."

Chapman took his anti-ice cream jihad to the lext level in a Jan. 24 article:

Since it decided last summer to stop selling Ben & Jerry's ice cream in the so-called occupied territories in Israel, multinational giant Unilever has seen its stock drop 20.7%, which equals about $26 billion, according to Israel Today and other media. 

Ben & Jerry's is owned by Unilever.  In a statement last July, Ben & Jerry's said, "We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).... Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement."

The stock drop apparently is the result, in part, of numerous U.S. states that have withdrawn their investments in Unilever because they have laws against boycotting Israel.

But Chapman is serving up correlation without proving causation. Neither Israel Today (a right-leaning outlet that was bankrolled by right-wing activist Sheldon Adelson) nor the other news source he cites -- the Jewish News Syndicate, which also has a right-leaning bias -- offer any direct proof that Unilever's stock decline is directly attributable to the Ben & Jerry's decision.

In actuality, none of these reports cite actual stock prices or even the dates being compared -- which appears to have been done deliberately to hide the fact that temporary drop in Unilever's stock price was exploited. On Jan. 18, a couple days before the Israeli outlets did their stories, Unilever stock dropped 10 percent at the start of trading, in apparent reaction to the company failing to purchase another operation; the next day, however, Unilever stock rose 10 percent. It's entirely possible -- and entirely dishonest -- for these outlets to base the drop in stock price on what happened Jan. 18. More honest accounting shows that the stock prices had dropped only about 6 percent in the past year, providing more evidence that the low number was dishonestly cherry-picked and putting the lie to the claim that reaction to Ben & Jerry's occupied territories withdrawal was the sole cause of Unilever's stock drop.

A closer look at the actual numbers shows that the stock price of Unilever on July 20, the day the Ben & Jerry's decision was announced, was $58.82. The stock price on Jan. 18, the day of the big 10 percent plunge, was $46.45 -- a drop of 21 percent, the closest we get to the figure cited in Chapman's article. In the previous six months before that, however, Unilever stock was mostly hovering between $52 and $57 a share. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the Ben & Jerry's decision had any direct effect on Unilever's stock price.

That's called a journalistic fail. But Chapman decided his story was too good to fact-check against the actual numbers.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:45 AM EDT

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