The Ben & Jerry’s board chair, who led the company’s recent move to stop selling ice cream in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” was accused of self-dealing — making moves in her own interest despite fiduciary duties — to fund her own think tank and a controversial Palestinian rights group, according to a Saturday report.
Anuradha Mittal, the chair of Ben & Jerry’s board of directors since 2008, is also the vice president of the company’s nonprofit foundation, and the director of the progressive Oakland Institute think tank, the New York Post reported.
In 2017 and 2018, the foundation dealt out some $104,000 to the Oakland Institute, where Mittal is the only salaried employee, according to IRS filings, the report said. During those years she received a salary of $156,000, the filings showed.
The Virginia-based National Legal and Policy Center prepared a complaint to be submitted to the IRS over the alleged self-dealing.
“It is our contention that this a possible violation of self-dealing as Mittal is considered a disqualified person under IRS rules,” the watchdog wrote.
Self-dealing, the act of taking advantage of one’s position to conduct transactions for their own benefit rather than in the interests of a company or clients, is considered illegal.
In addition, the report said some $3,000 of the Ben & Jerry’s foundation grants went to finance the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in 2017.
Last year, the EU canceled a $2 million grant to the Palestinian nonprofit for refusing to sign a clause that would obligate it to ensure no terrorist organizations benefit from the funded programs.
The report comes amid furious backlash against the ice cream company over its decision, announced in July, to stop selling its products in what it called “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” presumably the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Ben & Jerry’s said it would cut ties with its Israeli manufacturer and distributor and end sales over the Green Line from the end of 2022.
It was not clear if the ice cream would continue to be available in Israel proper when the ban takes effect at the end of next year, as Israeli law forbids discrimination against Israeli citizens in the territories. The company’s owner, Unilever, meanwhile has stated that it hopes to continue doing business in Israel and opposes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Israeli leaders have raged against Ben & Jerry’s decision, saying it’s tantamount to support of BDS and branding it “antisemitic.” At the time, Ben & Jerry countered that a targeted boycott of the settlements is different from a boycott of Israel as a whole. Its founders have said they do not endorse the BDS movement, but oppose Israel’s “illegal occupation.”
Mittal, too, has not backed withdrawing Ben & Jerry’s from Israel entirely. But on Twitter, she has previously endorsed BDS. “The catastrophe continues #Nakba70 years later #palestine bleeds Boycott Divest Sanctions #israel,” she wrote in 2018.
“I am proud of @benandjerrys for taking a stance to end sale of its ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Mittal tweeted last month, using the same term for the West Bank that the Ben and Jerry’s boycott announcement used.
“This action is not anti-Semitic. I am not anti-Semitic. The vile hate that has been thrown at me does [not] intimidate me. Pls work for peace — not hatred!”