Owners of the Ben and Jerry’s announced on Monday, July 19, that they will not sell their products in the Occupied Palestinian Territories saying doing business in the illegal settlements would be “inconsistent with our values.”
Ben and Jerry’s is a popular ice cream brand owned by multinational company Unilever. It came under criticism by activists supporting the Palestinian movement in the US and was campaigned against by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement 2015. The organizers of the campaign underlined the historic links between the company and progressive movements in the US claiming that its presence and sale in the illegal Israeli settlements violates the company’s stated commitment to human rights.
Following the recent Israeli bombings in the Gaza strip in May and forced eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in the occupied East Jerusalem, the call for boycott of the company’s products increased.
On July 10, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, which is spearheading campaign asking Ben and Jerry’s to stop selling its products in the occupied Palestinian territories, issued a statement reminding the company for its “admirable stance against racism and state violence in the United States” and demanding that it follow the similar commitment and end its “complicity in Israel’s Jewish-only settlement regime, which is built on stolen Palestinian land and causes enormous hardships for Palestinians.”
Several Israeli supporters called the move a surrender to antisemitism and BDS. Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister, asked the states in the US which have passed anti-BDS legislation to take action against the company in a tweet. Israel’s prime minister threatened legal action against the company.
Prime Minister Bennett emphasized that from the perspective of the State of Israel, this is an action that has severe consequences, including legal, and it will take strong action against any boycott directed against its citizens.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) July 20, 2021
The BDS National Committee issued a statement welcoming the company’s move saying that, “we hope Ben and Jerry’s has understood that, in harmony with its social justice commitments, there can be no business as usual with Israel,” Mondoweiss reported.
Anti-war group in the US, CODEPINK reacted to the news calling it an exciting win for the BDS movement.
An exciting win for the BDS movement! We can't wait until Ben & Jerry's takes things to the next level and stops manufacturing and selling their products in Israel as well. No apartheid in our ice cream 🍦 https://t.co/YUm68eEgZ4
— CODEPINK (@codepink) July 19, 2021
BDS is a global movement that campaigns among governments, organizations and individuals asking them to break their links with Israel and put sanctions against it in order to pressurize it to end its occupation of the Palestinian lands, to recognize refugee’s right to return and provide equal rights to all citizens of Israel. Since 2005 when it was first launched several companies and individuals have withdrawn their operations in the OPT and in Israel.