The press release is written in a font with round, childish letters, against a background of azure clouds, characteristic of the universe of the American brand. It is nonetheless highly political: “Ben & Jerry’s will end the sales of our ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories”, announced the company on Monday, July 19, because it “Is incompatible with our values”. The famous ice creams will continue to be sold in Israel, “Under another arrangement”, they will just no longer be distributed in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are illegal in the eyes of international law.
The exercise could prove to be perilous: most of the country’s large supermarket chains, the main distributors of ice cream, also work in the colonies. For now, the American company has simply indicated that it will not renew the license of the Israeli subcontractor with whom it has worked since 1987 when it expires at the end of 2022.
In Israel, the response was immediate. In a video posted on social media, the Minister of the Economy, Orna Barbivai, is filmed opening her freezer to take a Ben & Jerry’s jar and toss it in the trash. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has promised the CEO of Unilever, owner of the brand, to “ severe consequences, including from a legal standpoint ” in an indignant phone call Tuesday morning. Israel equates this announcement with support for the international Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement, which opposes the Israeli occupation by advocating the boycott of Israeli or foreign companies operating in the occupied Palestinian territories.
« More than 30 states in the United States have passed anti-BDS laws in recent years. Hear every one of them enforce these laws against Ben & Jerry’s », warned the Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, qualifying in passing the decision of “Shameful surrender to anti-Semitism” – the ice cream brand was created by two Jewish Americans.
Strong position statements
The Hebrew state hopes to eventually fold the company, as was the case for Airbnb. In 2018, the Internet rental giant announced that it was removing properties located in the occupied territories from its site, only to backpedal a few months later, under pressure from American Jewish organizations who accused it of “Religious discrimination” in federal court in the United States. According to a report cited by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Ben & Jerry’s products accounted for 49% of the ice cream market in Israel in May.
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