Ben & Jerry’s said Monday it was going to stop selling its ice cream in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory”, saying the sales are “inconsistent with our values.”
In a statement posted on the company’s website, the Vermont-based ice cream maker says it recognizes “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,” the statement said. “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 statement did not explicitly identify the concerns raised, but last month, a group called Vermonters for Justice in Palestine called on Ben & Jerry’s to “end complicity in Israel’s occupation and abuses of Palestinian human rights.”
PM Bennett responded to the news by issuing the following statement:
“There are many ice cream brands, but only one Jewish state. Ben & Jerry’s has decided to brand itself as the anti-Israel ice cream. This decision is morally wrong and I believe that it will become clear that it is also commercially wrong. The boycott against Israel – a democracy surrounded by islands of terrorism – reflects a total loss of way. The boycott does not work and will not work, and we will fight it with full force.”
Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy 🇮🇱💪 https://t.co/j7VNpIWX0f
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) July 19, 2021
“How much longer will Ben & Jerry’s permit its Israeli-manufactured ice cream to be sold in Jewish-only settlements while Palestinian land is being confiscated, Palestinian homes are being destroyed, and Palestinian families in neighborhoods like Sheik Jarrah are facing eviction to make way for Jewish settlers?” the organization’s Ian Stokes said in a June 10 news release.
Founded in Vermont in 1978, but currently owned by consumer goods conglomerate Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s has not shied away from social causes. While many businesses tread lightly in politics for fear of alienating customers, the ice cream maker has taken the opposite approach, often espousing progressive causes.
Ben & Jerry’s took a stand against what it called the Trump administration’s regressive policies by rebranding one of its flavors Pecan Resist in 2018, ahead of midterm elections.
The company said Pecan Resist celebrated activists who were resisting oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice. As part of the campaign, Ben & Jerry’s said it was giving $25,000 each to four activist entities.
Aida Touma-Sliman, an Israeli lawmaker with the Joint List of Arab parties, wrote on Twitter that Ben and Jerry’s decision Monday was “appropriate and moral.” She added that the “occupied territories are not part of Israel” and that the move is an important step to “help pressure the Israeli government to end the occupation.”
While Ben & Jerry’s products will not be sold in the settlements, the company will stay in Israel through a different arrangement.
The Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing the roughly 500,000 Israelis living in West Bank settlements, said “there’s no need to buy products from companies that boycott hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens because of the place they choose to live.” It said Ben & Jerry’s decision “brought a bad spirit to such a sweet industry” and called on Israelis to buy locally produced ice cream this summer.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the decision “a shameful capitulation to antisemitism, BDS and everything bad in the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish discourse.” He said he is going to take the issue to the more than 30 states that have legislation against the anti-Israel boycott movement.
Over 30 states in the United States have passed anti-BDS legislation in recent years. I plan on asking each of them to enforce these laws against Ben & Jerry's. They will not treat the State of Israel like this without a response.
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid🟠 (@yairlapid) July 19, 2021
For its part, the BDS movement applauded Ben & Jerry’s decision as “a decisive step towards ending the company’s complicity in Israel’s occupation and violations of Palestinian rights,” but called upon the company to do more.
“We hope that Ben & Jerry’s has understood that, in harmony with its social justice commitments, there can be no business as usual with apartheid Israel,” a statement read.