Ben & Jerry’s to Stop Sales in Israel-Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem
Ben & Jerry’s statement cited “the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
The company has not explicitly identified these concerns, but last month a group called Vermonters for Justice in Palestine called on Ben & Jerry’s to “end complicity in the Israeli occupation and Palestinian human rights violations.”
“How much longer will Ben & Jerry’s allow its Israeli-made ice cream to be sold in Jewish-only settlements as Palestinian land is confiscated, Palestinian homes are destroyed and Palestinian families are in neighborhoods like Sheik Jarrah?” are threatened with eviction to make way for the Jewish settlers? The organization’s Ian Stokes said in a June 10 press release.
In a statement released on Monday, the organization said Ben & Jerry’s actions were not going far enough.
“By maintaining a presence in Israel, Ben & Jerry’s continues to be complicit in the murder, imprisonment and dispossession of the Palestinian people and the violation of international law,” said Kathy Shapiro of the Vermont group.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry called Ben & Jerry’s decision “capitulation to continued and aggressive pressure from extreme anti-Israel groups” and the company was cooperating with “economic terrorism.”
“The decision is immoral and discriminatory because it targets Israel, harms both Israelis and Palestinians and encourages extremist groups who use intimidation tactics,” the ministry said in a statement. He also called on Ben & Jerry’s to withdraw his decision.
Although Ben & Jerry’s products are not sold in the settlements, the company said it will stay in Israel under a different arrangement. But it will be difficult. Large Israeli supermarket chains, the ice cream maker ‘s main distribution channel, all operate in the settlements.
Founded in Vermont in 1978, but currently owned by consumer goods conglomerate Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s has not backed down from social causes. While many companies are lighthearted 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 regressive policies of the Trump administration by renaming one of its flavors Pecan Resist in 2018, ahead of the midterm elections.
The company said Pecan Resist celebrates activists who resist oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice. As part of the campaign, Ben & Jerry’s said it is donating $ 25,000 each to four activist entities.
Aida Touma-Sliman, an Israeli lawmaker from the Joint List of Arab Parties, wrote on Twitter that Ben and Jerry’s decision on Monday was “appropriate and moral.” She added that the “occupied territories are not part of Israel” and that this decision is an important step to help pressure the Israeli government to end the occupation.
The West Bank and East Jerusalem were captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War. Some 700,000 Israeli settlers now live in the two territories – about 500,000 in the occupied West Bank and 200,000 in East Jerusalem.
Israel treats the two areas separately, considering East Jerusalem as part of its capital. Meanwhile, Israel views the West Bank as contested territory whose fate must be resolved through negotiations. However, the international community considers the two areas to be occupied territories. The Palestinians want the West Bank to be part of a future independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
In recent years, Israel has become a partisan issue in Washington, with many Democrats – especially from the progressive wing of the party – becoming increasingly critical of a number of Israeli policies, including the construction of Israel. settlements and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s close ties to former President Trump. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been a vocal critic of Israel.
The BDS movement – short for a Palestinian-led grassroots movement that advocates boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israeli institutions and businesses – hailed Ben & Jerry’s decision as “a decisive step towards ending the the company’s complicity in the Israeli occupation and violations of Palestinian rights, ”but called on the company to do more.
“We hope that Ben & Jerry’s understood that, in keeping with its commitments to social justice, there can no longer be business as usual with Israeli apartheid,” a statement said.
The Israeli government claims that the BDS movement masks a deeper goal of delegitimizing or even destroying the entire country.
The Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing the roughly 500,000 Israelis living in West Bank settlements, said “there is no need to buy products from companies that boycott hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens in because of where they choose to live ”. He said Ben & Jerry’s decision “has brought an evil spirit to such a sweet industry” and called on Israelis to buy locally produced ice cream this summer.
Ben & Jerry’s move on Monday may not be the final chapter in the saga. Airbnb announced in 2018 that it would stop advertising properties in Israeli settlements. Several months later, after being severely criticized by Israel and a federal lawsuit brought by American Israelis who owned property in the settlements, the company reversed its decision.