Thursday, December 9

Ben & Jerry’s to stop sales in Palestinian territories

Ben & Jerry’s said on Monday it would stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and opposed east Jerusalem, saying that sales in the territories sought by the Palestinians are “inconsistent with our values.”

The announcement was one of the loudest and highest-profile reprimands by a well-known venture of Israel’s policy of settling its citizens on land won by war. The international community generally considers the settlements to be illegal and an obstacle to peace.

The move by the Vermont-based ice cream company drew a swift rebuke from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former leader of the West Bank settlement movement, who called it “an immoral decision and I think it will turn out to be a business mistake, too. . “

The company informed its long-time licensee, responsible for the manufacture and distribution of ice cream in Israel, that it will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year, according to a statement posted on the website of the company based in Vermont.

The Ben & Jerry’s statement cited “concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”

The company did not explicitly identify those concerns, but last month, a group called Vermonters for Justice in Palestine called on Ben & Jerry’s to “end complicity in the Israeli occupation and Palestinian human rights abuses.”

“How much longer will Ben & Jerry’s allow its Israeli-made ice cream to be sold in Jewish-only settlements while Palestinian land is confiscated, Palestinian homes are destroyed, and Palestinian families in neighborhoods like Sheik Jarrah face eviction to make way? Jewish settlers, ”the organization’s Ian Stokes said in a June 10 press release.

In a statement Monday, the organization said Ben & Jerry’s actions did not go far enough.

“By maintaining a presence in Israel, Ben & Jerry’s continues to be complicit in the murder, imprisonment and dispossession of the Palestinian people and the flaunting of international law,” said Kathy Shapiro of the Vermont group.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry called Ben & Jerry’s decision “a surrender to continuous and aggressive pressure from anti-Israel extremist groups” and the company was cooperating with “economic terrorism.”

“The decision is immoral and discriminatory as it singles out Israel, harms both Israelis and Palestinians and encourages extremist groups that use intimidation tactics,” the ministry said in a statement. It also asked Ben & Jerry’s to withdraw its decision.

While Ben & Jerry’s products will not be sold in the settlements, the company said it will remain in Israel through a different arrangement. But doing so will be difficult. The main Israeli supermarket chains, the main distribution channel for the refrigerator, operate in the settlements.

Founded in Vermont in 1978, but now owned by consumer goods conglomerate Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s has not shied away from social causes. While many companies are lenient in politics for fear of alienating customers, the ice cream maker has taken the opposite approach, often championing progressive causes.

Ben & Jerry’s took a stand against what it called the regressive policies of the Trump administration by renaming one of its flavors Pecan Resist in 2018, ahead of the midterm elections.

The company said Pecan Resist celebrated activists resisting oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice. As part of the campaign, Ben & Jerry’s said it was donating $ 25,000 (€ 21,200) each to four activist entities.

Aida Touma-Sliman, an Israeli lawmaker with the Joint List of Arab Parties, wrote on Twitter that Ben and Jerry’s decision on Monday was “appropriate and moral.” He added that “the occupied territories are not part of Israel” and that the move is an important step to help pressure the Israeli government to end the occupation.

Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. Some 700,000 Israeli settlers now live in the two territories, approximately 500,000 in the occupied West Bank and 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

Israel treats the two areas separately, regarding East Jerusalem as part of its capital. Meanwhile, Israel views the West Bank as a disputed territory whose fate should be resolved in negotiations. However, the international community considers both areas to be occupied territories. The Palestinians seek the West Bank as part of a future independent state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Israel in recent years has become a partisan issue in Washington, with many Democrats, particularly from the progressive wing of the party, increasingly critical of a number of Israeli policies, including settlement building, and the former prime minister’s close ties. Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with former President Trump. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been an outspoken critic of Israel.

The BDS movement, short for a Palestinian-led grassroots movement advocating boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli institutions and companies, applauded Ben & Jerry’s decision as “a decisive step in ending the complicity of the company in the Israeli occupation and the violations of Palestinian rights. ” But he asked the company to do more.

“We hope that Ben & Jerry’s has understood that, in keeping with its social justice commitments, there can be no business as usual with apartheid Israel,” a statement read.

The Israeli government says the BDS movement masks a deeper goal of delegitimizing or even destroying the entire country.

The Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing the roughly 500,000 Israelis living in West Bank settlements, said “there is no need to buy products from companies that boycott hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens for the place they choose to live. “. He said the Ben & Jerry decision “brought a bad spirit to such a sweet industry” and called on Israelis to buy locally produced ice cream this summer.

The Ben & Jerry move on Monday may not be the final chapter in the saga. Airbnb announced in 2018 that it would stop listing properties in Israeli settlements. Several months later, after harsh criticism from Israel and a federal lawsuit from Israeli Americans who owned property in the settlements, the company reversed its decision.

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