(July 26, 2021, JNS Wire)
On July 19th, 2021, Ben & Jerry’s announced they would cut ties with their factory and licensee in Israel and, “end sales of our ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” at the end of 2022. Ben & Jerry’s is owned by an international corporation called Unilever, but also has an independent board which makes decisions about the company’s social mission. Unilever said their goal is to continue to sell in Israel under a different arrangement. However, the independent board of Ben & Jerry’s openly disagreed, saying they have not committed to doing business in Israel going forward. According to Avi Zinger, CEO of the factory which manufactures Ben & Jerry’s in Israel, the company demanded that he stop selling ice cream in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem (an area which includes the Jewish people’s holiest sites, like the Western Wall). He rejected the demand, and the company responded that they would not renew his license after it expires in 2022. As a result, 160 Israeli workers of all backgrounds, including Jews and Arabs, may lose their jobs in 2022 or before. Palestinians working at an Israeli distribution company in the West Bank/Judea & Samaria may lose their jobs as well.
With this decision, Ben & Jerry’s surrendered to and empowered hate groups that oppose Israel’s existence in any territory. They also exposed the clear bias of numerous members of their independent board. The independent Israeli factory manufacturing their ice cream is in Be’er Tuvia, a community south of Tel Aviv on territory that is internationally recognized as part of Israel. In essence, Ben & Jerry’s is saying that any company based in Israel should be put out of business if it also sells to people in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. Because the economies of Israel and the West Bank are deeply intertwined, this approach would target countless Israeli and international businesses, amounting to a near total boycott aimed at crippling the Jewish state. Furthermore, the decision was a reaction to increased pressure after the latest Hamas-Israel war, in which the racist terrorist group launched over 4,000 rockets and missiles at Israel. In practice, Ben & Jerry’s responded to the fact that Hamas committed war crimes against Israelis and Palestinians by further harming Israelis.
For all of the above reasons and more, Ben & Jerry’s announcement has led to widespread opposition. StandWithUs is proud that over 16,000 people around the world have joined our email campaign, urging Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever to reverse their shameful and one sided decision. Furthermore, we applaud U.S. state governments which are already preparing economic actions to hold Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s accountable, in line with anti-BDS laws. Numerous grocery stores in the U.S. have stopped selling Ben & Jerry’s products as well, in protest of this harmful and hateful decision.
Finally, Israel’s former Antitrust Commissioner has written a letter arguing that Unilever is violating the law, because they also own an Israeli company called Strauss. This is another major Israeli ice cream brand, which is subject to regulations preventing it from becoming a monopoly in Israel. The letter stated that after acquiring Ben & Jerry’s, “Unilever was obligated to maintain a complete separation between Ben & Jerry’s Global and Ben & Jerry’s Israeli licensee, and not restrict or harm in any manner the independent licensee.” The purpose of this was to prevent Strauss from taking over the Israeli market. The letter concludes that, “as long as Unilever wants to continue to sell ice cream in Israel, it must continue to sell Ben & Jerry’s in Israel and in all its areas.” StandWithUs supports all of these efforts to hold Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s accountable around the world. We have also provided answers to a number of frequently asked questions below:
Is the Israeli Ben & Jerry’s factory in the settlements? Who owns the factory? No, the factory is in a community in southern Israel called Be’er Tuvia, located between Tel Aviv and Gaza. It is an independent business owned by an Israeli named Avi Zinger, with 160 Israelis of all backgrounds working there. Isn’t Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever still supporting Israel, just not settlements? This may seem to be the case on the surface. However their decision is a response to pressure from extremists who hate Israel and don’t want it to exist in any territory. The company is empowering those extremists, not groups that support two states and simply oppose settlements.
The loudest campaign pressuring Ben & Jerry’s and celebrating this move labels the location of their Israeli factory a “settlement,” when it is clearly in an internationally recognized part of Israel.
Ben & Jerry’s independent board released a statement indicating that they may not want to find another way to continue operating in Israel.
Ben & Jerry’s reportedly demanded that sales of their ice cream be stopped in eastern Jerusalem, meaning they consider Jewish holy sites like the Western Wall to be “Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
In essence, Ben & Jerry’s is saying that any company based in Israel should be put out of business if it also sells to people in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank. Because the economies of Israeli and the West Bank are deeply intertwined, this approach would target countless Israeli and international businesses, amounting to a near total boycott aimed at crippling the Jewish state.
The global BDS movement, which targets all of Israel, is celebrating this decision and using it to apply further pressure on the company to cut ties with Israel entirely. They are using it to further promote their campaign of hate, aimed at strangle Israel economically and politically.
160 people who work at the Ben & Jerry’s factory inside Israel may now lose their jobs. Palestinians working at an Israeli distribution company in the West Bank/Judea & Samaria may lose their jobs as well.
Will Ben & Jerry’s still sell ice cream in Palestinian towns?
The extent of their sales to Palestinian towns is unclear as of now. We will share more information as soon as we get it. Who gets hurt by this boycott? Do Israelis and Palestinians both work at the factory? Is this boycott going to hurt Ben and Jerry’s or does it just hurt the Israeli economy? Will it make a difference in Israel at all? 160 Israelis who work at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Israel are now in danger of losing their jobs, once the factory’s license expires at the end of 2022. Palestinians working at an Israeli distribution company may lose their jobs as well. That said, this decision will likely hurt Ben & Jerry’s and their parent company, Unilever, far more than it will harm Israel’s economy. We are already seeing numerous stores stop selling Ben & Jerry’s and more significant actions are likely on the way, in response to these businesses participating in a discriminatory Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Why would Ben and Jerry’s decide to make this statement for “social justice” when they risk alienating their customers?
The company has faced pressure to cut ties with Israel for years, from groups that hate Israel and oppose its existence. While they frame this destructive goal in progressive social justice rhetoric, it represents the exact opposite of those values. Pressure increased after the Hamas-Israel war in May, 2021, so Ben & Jerry’s decided to appease the extremists by announcing it would cut ties with its factory in Israel at the end of 2022.
Why do people care so much what an Ice cream brand has to say?
Ben & Jerry’s brands itself as a socially conscious company and promotes progressive political stances through its marketing. Anti-Israel hate groups used this to promote misleading propaganda, claiming that campaigns aimed at ending Israel’s existence are a form of “social justice”.
Now that Ben & Jerry’s is trying to appease these extremists, it is crucial for us to make clear that this was the wrong decision both morally and financially.
What is the next step after the StandWithUs petition/email campaign?
We’re proud that over 16,000 people have joined the email campaign urging Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s to reverse their harmful decision. We encourage you to share the campaign with everyone in your network.
In addition to that:
We support efforts to hold Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever accountable around the world, including individual U.S. states applying their anti-BDS laws by divesting their pension funds and ending any contracts they may have with these companies.
We continue to support the independent Israeli company, because they rejected all discriminatory demands and will continue to sell Ben & Jerry’s to everyone until their license ends in 2022 (or later if Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s are forced to change course). Hundreds of workers at the Israeli factory and other parts of the supply chain are now in danger of losing their jobs, so we urge people in Israel not to boycott Ben & Jerry‘s there for the time being. We will update everyone if anything changes.