Ben & Jerry’s has never been shy about taking a political stand. Now the ice cream behemoth is wading into one of the world’s most contentious issues by pulling its products from shelves in Israeli-occupied territories.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT),” the Vermont-based company said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett blasted the move in a phone call with Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever. According to his office, Bennett told Unilever’s CEO, “From Israel’s standpoint, this action has severe consequences, legal and otherwise, and it will move aggressively against any boycott measure targeting civilians.”
“Ben & Jerry’s has decided to brand itself as the anti-Israeli ice cream,” Bennett wrote on Twitter.
His predecessor agrees; former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted, “Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy.”
Ben & Jerry’s said it plans to continue to sell its products in Israel, but they will not be available in disputed territories like the West Bank. The company decided not to renew a contract with a local distributor who challenged the company’s decision. That contract expires at the end of next year, so Ben & Jerry’s will still be available in Israeli-occupied territories until then.
Reuters provides more details on the fallout:
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, said he had raised the Ben & Jerry’s decision in a letter to 35 U.S. governors whose states legislated against boycotting Israel.
“Rapid and determined action must be taken to counter such discriminatory and antisemitic actions,” read the letter, tweeted by the envoy, which likened the case to Airbnb’s 2018 announcement that it would delist settlement rental properties.
The Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee cheered Ben & Jerry’s decision but urged the company to go further, saying “We warmly welcome their decision but call on Ben & Jerry’s to end all operations in apartheid Israel.”
CNN provides more details on Ben & Jerry’s history of activism and the pressure they faced from left-leaning activists:
The Vermont-based company has aligned itself with liberal causes, including diverting some funds destined for police departments and investing “that money in community-driven solutions that foster real health, peacekeeping, and safety,” it said in a statement in June 2020. The company has called on the United States to end white supremacy and launched a podcast on racism in America last year. In December 2020, Ben & Jerry’s unveiled a Colin Kaepernick-inspired nondairy ice cream flavor called “Change the Whirled.”
Fans have taken the company to task for doing business in Israel — especially in West Bank settlements, considered illegal under international law — arguing it doesn’t align with Ben & Jerry’s liberal image.