Ben & Jerry’s anger Israel with withdrawal
Ice cream is getting political.
Ben & Jerry’s says it will stop selling its products in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The company says operating there is “inconsistent” with its values.
And it hasn’t gone well with some in Israel.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the decision was “morally wrong”.
His party supports building Jewish settlements in the West Bank, although most countries consider the practice illegal.
Ben & Jerry’s decision – known for its tough stance on ethical issues – also poses a headache for parent company Unilever.
Bennett called the move “a blatant anti-Israel move”, and said the British giant should expect “serious consequences”.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid used even stronger language.
The move is a shameful surrender to anti-Semitism, he says.
Lapid added that he would urge US states that have opposed business divestitures in Israel to take action against the company.
The company’s local sales team is also angry.
Avi Zinger, director of licensee Ben & Jerry’s in Israel, said he would not go along with the move:
“I refuse it. Number one, legally in Israel you cannot stop selling or decide not to sell to a customer, it doesn’t matter whether the customer is in Tel Aviv or Haifa. So legally I can’t not do it. And as an Israeli and as a manufacturer and a company that lives here, I absolutely cannot say no to the citizens of Israel. “
In a statement, Unilever said it remains committed to the Israeli market, but respects Ben & Jerry’s right to make its own decisions.
The brand enjoys considerable autonomy under the terms agreed upon when it was taken over by Unilever in 2000.
A spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization said he welcomed initiatives by any company to withdraw from the settlements.