Ben & Jerry’s boycott puts ice cream maker on a rocky road with Israel

The Israeli Prime Minister vowed on Tuesday that Ben & Jerry’s would “actively act” on the decision to stop selling ice cream in the occupied territories of Israel. Israeli ambassador to the United States urged dozens of state governors to punish the company under anti-boycott law.

The strong reaction reflected Israel’s concern that the ice cream maker’s decision could follow other companies. It also seemed to set the stage for protracted public relations and court battles.

Naftali Bennett’s office talks to Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s food conglomerate, what he calls “apparently an anti-Israeli step.” He said he expressed concern about. He said the move “has serious consequences, whether legal or not,” and that Israel “will be proactive in all boycott actions directed at its citizens.” It was.

In Washington, DC, State Department spokesman Edward Price refused to comment directly on the company’s decision. But he said the United States rejected the boycott movement against Israel, which “unfairly elected” the country.

In an announcement on Monday, Ben & Jerry’s said it would stop selling ice cream on the west bank of the occupied Jordan River and compete in East Jerusalem. The company, long known for its social activities, said such sales were “contradictory to our values.”

Media Impact on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


This statement was one of the most powerful criticisms of the renowned American brand of reconciliation policies on the West Bank and East Jerusalem of Israel, which had ruled for more than half a century after capturing Israel in the 1967 Middle East War. ..

Wide international support

Palestinians, with widespread international support, claim that both areas are part of a future independent state. The Israeli settlement, which is currently home to about 700,000 Israelis, is widely regarded as an illegal and impediment to peace.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 war, and although the annexation is not internationally recognized, it considers the entire city to be an undivided capital. It states that the West Bank is a conflict area and its ultimate position should be settled by negotiation. However, much of the international community considers both regions to be occupied territories.

Ben & Jerry’s said in a statement that he had informed his longtime Israeli partner that he would not renew his license agreement when it expires at the end of 2022.

He said he would continue to serve ice cream in Israel “through another arrangement,” noting that it would not serve Israeli occupied territories. Many companies, especially the beverage company SodaStream, have closed their factories in the occupied West Bank, but few have targeted Israeli consumers living there.

It is unclear how Ben & Jerry’s plans it, as the Israeli supermarket chain, which is the main distribution channel for ice cream with cleverly named flavors, also operates in the settlements. Israeli law allows you to sue people and businesses that boycott settlements.

Airbnb 2018 Boycott on the West Bank

On the world stage, Israel makes no distinction between settlements and other nations. When home leasing company Airbnb announced in 2018 that it would not list properties in the West Bank settlements, Israel severely criticized the move as part of a Palestinian-led boycotts of Israel.

Israeli Strategic Minister at the time, Gilad Erdan, encouraged Israelis to be harmed by a decision to sue Airbnb. A few months later, the company reversed its policy after Israeli criticism continued and Israeli-Americans filed a US federal proceeding.

Mr Eldan, now Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said he had sent a letter to the governors of 35 states on Tuesday that passed a law against anti-Israeli boycott activity.

“We must take swift and decisive action to counter such discriminatory and anti-Semitic behavior,” he wrote. “We must stand together and send a clear message that this is not allowed.”

Ben & Jerry’s Creator on Qualified Immunity


But even some Israeli supporters said the company was in a solid position.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J-Street, said it was not anti-Semitic to distinguish between Israel and the settlements built in the occupied territories.

“Instead of demonizing and attacking businesses and individuals to make principled decisions, these leaders contribute more to the fight against anti-Semitism by helping to peacefully end unjust and harmful professions. Will do, “he said.

The latest front of many years of battle

This controversy is the latest in Israel’s long-standing fight against the Israeli ice cream market, a Palestinian-led grassroots campaign to boycott Israeli companies, cultural institutions and universities, withdraw from investment, sanctions, or promote BDS. I changed it to the front line.

BDS organizers say they are protesting what is called the Israeli crackdown on Palestinians in a campaign modeled after South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. Its non-violent message has resonated with audiences around the world, including many US university campuses.

But Israel states that the movement has a deeper agenda aimed at outlawing and destroying the country.

BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti said the movement had urged Ben & Jerry’s to withdraw from Israel for years. He called the decision “very important.”

“It shows that you can’t trade with apartheid nations without collusion,” he said. “We expect more socially responsible companies to follow, perhaps not publicly.”

“Social mission”

Unilever, which acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, appeared on Tuesday, moving away from ice cream makers. In a statement, Unilever said it granted Ben & Jerry’s independence and the right to “make decisions about its social mission” under the purchase agreement.

“We are committed to our presence in Israel, which has invested in people, brands and businesses for decades.”

Despite such guarantees, global companies may be vulnerable to US state law banning anti-Israeli boycott activities, Eugene Kontrovic, a professor at George Mason University’s Scalia Law School. Stated.

Kontrovic, who consulted with lawmakers in several states that adopted the law, said they treated anti-Israeli boycotts as a form of discrimination. Violations of these laws could either disqualify both Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever from the state’s contract or encourage the state to remove Unilever’s shares from a large pension fund, he said. ..

“They may think that mixing ice cream with anti-Israeli politics may not be the best idea,” he said.

U.S. supports dissolution

The battle comes against the backdrop of changing US attitudes towards Israel. Where Israel once enjoyed solid bipartisan support in the United States, Republicans strongly support it, and Democrats, especially young liberal voters, increasingly support Palestinians. It has become.

Several factors support this trend, including the close alliance between former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Donald Trump.

Michael Oren, Ambassador to the United States Netanyahu, said this trend was a concern for Israel.

He said Ben & Jerry’s decision would not pose an imminent threat to Israel’s strong economy, but said the boycott movement could contribute to “steady erosion of Israel’s legitimacy.”

“We know our enemies can’t destroy us with all those missiles,” he told reporters. “They can destroy us economically through sanctions and boycotts, and that’s where BDS poses a long-term threat.”

Ben & Jerry’s boycott puts ice cream maker on a rocky road with Israel

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