[News] Israel melts down over Ben & Jerry's

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 23 13:34:20 EDT 2021


  Israel melts down over Ben & Jerry's

Ali Abunimah <https://electronicintifada.net/people/ali-abunimah> - 21 
July 2021


I spoke to TRT World’s /Money Talks/ program about the decision by Ben & 
Jerry’s to stop selling its ice cream in Israeli settlements in the 
occupied West Bank.

Israel is enraged and threatening to punish the frozen treats maker – a 
reaction I told TRT World is totally unhinged.

Watch the video above.

Palestine’s BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement 
celebrated a win that came after years of grassroots campaigning 

“We warmly welcome their decision but call on Ben & Jerry’s to end all 
operations in apartheid Israel,” the BDS National Committee added.

    Following years of #BDS
    campaigns @benandjerrys
    <https://twitter.com/benandjerrys?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw> has announced
    it will end sales of its ice cream in Israel's illegal settlements
    on stolen Palestinian land.

    We warmly welcome their decision but call on Ben & Jerry's to end
    all operations in apartheid Israel.#BDSsuccess
    pic.twitter.com/0n1AjnPFaA <https://t.co/0n1AjnPFaA>

    — BDS movement (@BDSmovement) July 19, 2021

Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid denounced Ben & Jerry’s move as “a 
disgraceful capitulation to anti-Semitism, to BDS and to all that is 
evil in the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish discourse.”

Israel has no good arguments to defend its illegal colonization of 
occupied Palestinian land. So it lazily smears virtually anyone who 
criticizes or takes action to document or counter its crimes and abuses 
as anti-Jewish bigots.

Lapid also vowed to press more than two dozen US states that have passed 
legislation targeting the BDS movement “to enforce these laws against 
Ben & Jerry’s.”

“They will not treat the State of Israel like this without a response,” 
Lapid added.

    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

    “Anti-Israel ice cream”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke to Alan Jope, CEO of 
Unilever, the multinational that owns Ben & Jerry’s, warning him of 
“severe consequences.”

“There are many ice cream brands, but only one Jewish state,” Bennett 
added <https://twitter.com/IsraeliPM/status/1417184668152107011>.

“Ben & Jerry’s has decided to brand itself as the anti-Israel ice cream.”

    Prime Minister Bennett spoke with Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever which
    owns Ben & Jerry's and made it clear that he views with utmost
    gravity the decision by Ben & Jerry's to boycott Israel and added
    that this is a subsidiary of Unilever, which has taken a clearly
    anti-Israel step.

    — PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) July 20, 2021

On Tuesday, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the US, published a 
letter he sent to the governors of 35 US states denouncing Ben and 
Jerry’s “anti-Semitic” action.

Erdan urged the officials to “consider speaking out” and take punitive 
measures “including in relation to your state laws and the commercial 
dealings between Ben & Jerry’s and your state.”

    In coordination w/ @yairlapid
    <https://twitter.com/yairlapid?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>, I sent a letter
    to 35 Governors of US states that have legislation against the
    Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. 1/2
    pic.twitter.com/tGW720oRZL <https://t.co/tGW720oRZL>

    — Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) July 20, 2021

Anti-BDS laws are widely viewed as unconstitutional 
attempts to force pro-Israel political opinions on US citizens and 

Federal courts in Kansas 
and Georgia 
have already struck down key anti-BDS provisions that violate First 
Amendment protections for freedom of speech and political opinion.

Israel has previously taken credit 
<https://mondoweiss.net/2019/07/israeli-government-minister/> for 
helping get many of these unconstitutional laws passed in the first place.

Ben & Jerry’s previously angered Israel and its lobby in the late 1990s, 
when under pressure from campaigners it ended use 
of spring water pillaged from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, part 
of Syria.

    Scorched earth

Some pro-Israel activists are also calling on Jewish religious bodies 
around the world to withdraw kosher certification from Ben & Jerry’s 

One rabbinical organization in Australia has reportedly already done so.

Similar to halal certification for Muslims, a kosher certification given 
by a qualified rabbinical agency attests that a food item has been made 
according to Jewish religious standards.

Politicizing such certifications in the service of Israel is another 
reprehensible attempt to conflate appropriate actions to counter 
Israel’s violations of international law with anti-Jewish bigotry.

This scorched earth tactic by pro-Israel activists is especially 
reckless, given that anti-Jewish 
and anti-Muslim bigots 
in several countries already spread lies and conspiracy theories about 
kosher and halal certifications to advance racist, far-right agendas.

    Ben & Jerry's losing its kosher certification for deciding not to
    sell ice cream in illegal settlements strikes me as a wild
    conflation of religious practice with support for the occupation
    https://t.co/OD84nvQRfT <https://t.co/OD84nvQRfT>

    — Michael Bueckert (@mbueckert) July 21, 2021


Founded at a gas station <https://www.benjerry.com/about-us> in Vermont 
in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Ben & Jerry’s has fostered a 
as a socially conscious company.

It was fully acquired by Unilever in 2000, but retains an independent 
board of directors that the ice cream maker says 
<https://www.benjerry.com/about-us/how-were-structured> is “empowered to 
protect and defend Ben & Jerry’s brand equity and integrity.”

The decision to end sales in Israeli settlements has sparked a public 
battle between Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s management on the one hand, 
and the independent board on the other.

On Monday, Ben & Jerry’s released a statement 
announcing that “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & 
Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

“We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures 
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region,” the 
company added.

“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’s final sentence asserts that although Ben & Jerry’s will 
no longer be sold in occupied Palestinian territories, “we will stay in 
Israel through a different arrangement” – details of which would be 
announced later.

Unilever issued a separate statement affirming, “We remain fully 
committed to our presence in Israel.”

With regard to its subsidiary, Unilever added that it “recognized the 
right of the brand and its independent board to take decisions about its 
social mission.”

“We also welcome the fact that Ben & Jerry’s will stay in Israel,” 
Unilever asserted.

The independent board is rejecting this.

The statement released by Ben & Jerry’s management “does not reflect the 
position of the independent board, nor was it approved by the 
independent board,” according to a separate statement from the board.

The board says the statement it approved differs from the one actually 
issued by Ben & Jerry’s. It does /not/ include any commitment to “stay 
in Israel.”

Unilever and the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s took a position and published a 
statement on a matter directly related to the ice cream maker’s “social 
mission and brand integrity” without its approval, the board said.

This put the companies “in violation of the spirit and the letter” of 
the agreement made when Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry’s, the board added.

Board chair Anuradha Mittal 
<https://www.benjerry.com/about-us/how-were-structured#3timeline> did 
not respond to inquiries from The Electronic Intifada, but she told NBC 
“I am saddened by the deceit of it.”

“I can’t stop thinking that this is what happens when you have a board 
with all women and people of color who have been pushing to do the right 
thing,” Mittal added.

    Snowball effect

Notwithstanding these differences, Israel considers Ben & Jerry’s 
withdrawal even from its West Bank settlements as a major blow and a 
dangerous precedent.

It comes amid a widening international consensus that companies have an 
obligation not to profit from or otherwise be complicit in Israel’s 
colonization of occupied territories and other abuses of Palestinian 

    What is most significant about Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop
    operating in the occupied West Bank is that sets a precedent and a
    high-profile one at that. The door is now open for more and more
    companies (and individuals) to boycott and divest from Apartheid
    israel all together.

    — Mohammed El-Kurd (@m7mdkurd) July 21, 2021

Recently, one of Norway’s biggest pension funds divested 
from 16 Israeli and international firms that profit from the settlements.

This also comes amid growing recognition 
that Israel’s policies towards Palestinians, wherever they live, 
constitute the crime of apartheid.

Israel undoubtedly fears that the ice cream maker from Vermont has set 
off a snowball effect that will encourage others to freeze it out as well.


  * settlement business
  * Ben & Jerry's <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/ben-jerrys>
  * BDS <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/bds>
  * Gilad Erdan <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/gilad-erdan>
  * anti-BDS laws <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/anti-bds-laws>

  * Ali Abunimah's blog <https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah>

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