A popular ice cream chain is to stop selling a fan favourite in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Jerusalem after it said the sales in territories sought by the Palestinians goes against its values.
Ben & Jerry’s made its announcement in what has been called one of the strongest and highest-profile rebukes by a well-known company of Israel’s policy of settling its citizens on war-won lands.
More than 440,000 Israeli settlers live uneasily among around three million Palestinians in the West Bank, land that was captured and occupied in a 1967 war but which Palestinians say is the heartland of a future state.
Most countries consider Israeli settlements on Palestinian land to be illegal, although Israel disputes this.
The move by the ice cream company drew swift reproach from Naftali Bennett, the Israeli Prime Minister and former leader of the West Bank settlement movement
He called it an “immoral decision” and said “I believe that it will turn out to be a business mistake too.”
The company informed its longstanding licensee – responsible for manufacturing and distributing the ice cream in Israel – that it will not renew the licence agreement when it expires at the end of next year.
In a statement on its website, Ben & Jerry’s cited “The concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
Although the company did not explicitly identify those concerns, last month a group called Vermonters for Justice in Palestine called on the Vermont-based company to “end complicity in Israel’s occupation and abuses of Palestinian human rights”.
The Israeli foreign ministry has called the decision “A surrender to ongoing and aggressive pressure from extreme anti-Israel groups” and said the company was cooperating with “economic terrorism”
In a statement, the ministry said: “The decision is immoral and discriminatory, as it singles out Israel, harms both Israelis and Palestinians and encourages extremist groups who use bullying tactics.”
It also called on the company to change its decision.
While Ben & Jerry’s products will not be sold in the settlements, the company said it will stay in Israel through a different arrangement.
It currently operates a manufacturing facility and two scoop shops in Israel, which is describes on its website as being located “outside the occupied territories, just south of Tel Aviv.”
However, major Israeli supermarket chains, the primary distribution channel for Ben & Jerry’s, all operate in the settlements.
Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation said: “We welcome the decision of any company to stop its work and investments in Israeli settlements. There are many ice cream brands, but only one Jewish state.
“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.”
This is not the first time Ben & Jerry’s have got involved in social causes. It took a stand against what it called the Trump administration’s regressive policies by re-branding one of its flavours Pecan Resist in 2018, ahead of midterm elections.
The company – founded in Vermont in 1978 – 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 (£18,000) each to four activist entities. (Mirror.co.Uk)