(July 19, 2021 / JNS) Ben & Jerry’s announced on Monday that it will end sales of its ice-cream in “occupied Palestinian territory.”
In a statement posted on the company’s website, the ice-cream brand said that it believes “it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT),” claiming that “we also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
“We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.”
The company added that while its brand will no longer be sold in the “occupied Palestinian territory,” it will stay in Israel through a different arrangement to be announced at a future date. It did not specify what exactly constitutes “occupied Palestinian territory” or if the brand will be available for sale within Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of the West Bank.
Its current distributor in Israel slammed the move, calling it “entirely unacceptable.”
“Ben & Jerry’s international decided not to renew their agreement with us in a year-and-a-half after we refused their demand to stop distribution throughout Israel,” it said. “We urge the Israeli government and consumers—don’t let them boycott Israel.”
Branded itself as the ‘anti-Israel ice cream’
The decision generated a strong backlash from Israel’s leadership from across the aisle.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the company has “decided to brand itself as anti-Israel ice-cream.”
“This is a moral mistake, and I believe it will turn out to be a business mistake as well,” he said, adding that he will fight the boycott.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also condemned the decision, calling it “disgraceful” and a “capitulation to anti-Semitism and the BDS movement.”
Lapid said that he will ask the more than 30 U.S. states that have anti-BDS laws to retaliate against the company.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the decision, tweeting: “Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy.”
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked of the governing Yamina Party also condemned the decision, saying, “Your ice-cream brand doesn’t match our tastes. We’ll be fine without you.”
In a statement, Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, also slammed the company, saying “the residents of Samaria and this land will stand strong long after Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream melts and disappears from the world.”
He added that “we won’t give in to this anti-Semitism, which has permeated American Jewry” in an apparent swipe at the co-founders of Ben & Jerry’s, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who are Jewish.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) tweeted: “It is discriminatory and against the interests of peace and reconciliation to launch a one-sided boycott when it is the Palestinian leadership that refuses to come to the negotiating table with Israel.”
Cohen and Greenfield, who founded the company in 1978, sold it to the British multinational food giant Unilever in 2000. Despite being sold to a multinational, the Vermont-based company, which touted a diverse range of ice-cream flavors, has long been associated with progressive values and politics.
While it is unclear what led to the recent decision, last month, a group called Vermonters for Justice in Palestine called on the company to “end complicity in Israel’s occupation and abuses of Palestinian human rights.”
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