(Headline USA) Ben & Jerry’s said Monday it was going to stop selling its ice cream in Israel‘s territory of the “West Bank” of the Jordan River and east Jerusalem, saying the sales in the territories sought by the Palestinians are “inconsistent with our values.”
The announcement was one of the strongest and highest-profile rebukes by a well-known company of Israel’s policy of settling its citizens on its own lands. The settlements are seen by some others in the international community, without evidence, as illegal and obstacles to peace.
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.”
There has never been a nation of “Palestine” nor a people group, until an identity for Arabs in the territory was fabricated in the 1960s.
The company’s 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.”
“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.
The West Bank and east Jerusalem were captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war after the nation was attacked. Most of the Islamic world denies the Jewish nation’s right to exist.
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 the West Bank, 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.
BDS is shorthand for a grassroots, Palestinian-led movement that advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli institutions and businesses.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.