On Monday, 19th July 2021, the US-based ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, acquired by Unilever in 2000, announced via Twitter that it “will end sales of our ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Additionally, Ben & Jerry’s have confirmed that they have informed their licensee, whose factory is based in southern Israel, that they will not be renewing the licence when it expires at the end of 2022. The licensee’s factory in Southern Israel employs Palestinians and Israelis who enjoy the same levels of remuneration and employee benefits commensurate with their respective positions.
Ben and Jerry’s Board of Directors wanted to boycott all of Israel. Read more in this Jerusalem Post article here.
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stressed to Unilever CEO Alan Jope that the Unilever-owned Ben and Jerry’s was taking a “clearly anti-Israeli step” and stressed that Israel sees the measure as having “serious legal and other implications”, adding that the Jewish state “will act vigorously against any act of boycott directed against its citizens.”
Read more in the Times of Israel here.
PM Bennett has also referred to the thirty plus states in the US which have anti-BDS laws and Israel’s ambassador to the US, Gilad Erdan, sent letters last Monday evening to the governors of the states that have those laws, asking them to place sanctions on Ben and Jerry’s in accordance with their own legislation.
On hearing the news about Ben & Jerry’s, President Herzog called boycotts against Israel “a new kind of terrorism”, saying at a ceremony commemorating past prime ministers and presidents of Israel that “Terrorism tries to harm the citizens of Israel and the economy of Israel. We must oppose this boycott and terrorism in any form.
Read more in this i24 News article here.
Responding to President Herzog’s reference to boycotts as “a new kind of terrorism”, Yair Golan, former chief of staff in the Israeli ministry and current Meretz Knesset member, criticised Herzog’s description, writing on Twitter that “An ice cream boycott is not terrorism” and that “We must fight against the boycott with one hand, and for a two-state solution with the other. But using concepts drawn from the world of violence is not the way.”
Left-wing Meretz lawmaker MK Michal Rosen tweeted blaming the settlements, writing “Ben & Jerry’s is not boycotting Israel, but rather the settlements. You may not like it, but this is the price of settlement expansion, land grabs, and the blurring of the Green Line.”
International law expert and head of the international law department at the Kohelet Policy Forum, Professor Eugene Kontorovitch wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, which for those of you with a subscription, can be read online here. For those of you who don’t have a subscription, the piece reads as follows:
“Because Ben & Jerry’s is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, the latter is responsible for its boycott. In the past eight years, 33 American states have passed laws that restrict government contracting or investing in companies that boycott Israeli people or businesses. These laws are modelled on similar restrictions on companies that discriminate on other grounds, such as sexual orientation. This means that, in about a dozen states, state employees’ pension funds will be barred from investment in Unilever. In many other states, government entities will be barred from buying goods or services from Unilever. Moreover, since the 1970s, federal law has banned U.S. companies from participating in foreign boycotts of any country. If it turns out that the Palestinian Authority contacted Ben & Jerry’s or its officers and asked them to boycott, criminal penalties would be available against Unilever.”
Meanwhile, Hillel Schenker, a Co-Editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal who lives in Tel Aviv published a blog in the Times of Israel titled ‘Ben & Jerry’s did the right thing’, writing that “Boycotting the settlements is not boycotting Israel, it is reaffirming the need to end the occupation based on a negotiated two-state solution.”
Read his blog here.
Meanwhile, Texas and Florida have weighed in on the issue.
A spokesman for GOP Texas Governor Greg Abbott told CNBC on Tuesday night: “Ben and Jerry’s decision to boycott parts of Israel is disgraceful and an insult to America’s closest ally in the Middle East.”
Florida state CFO Jimmy Patronis, who controls public pension funds, told CNBC his office is already discussing the issue. In a letter sent to Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy on Thursday, Patronis wrote, “It is my belief that Ben & Jerry’s brazen refusal to do business in Israel will result in your placement on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.”
Read more about that here.