JERUSALEM (RNS) — Ben & Jerry’s announcement that it will ban the sale of its ice cream in what it calls the “occupied Palestinian territories” beginning in 2023 could have wide-reaching legal and political ramifications, Middle East observers say.
In a statement Monday (July 19), Ben & Jerry’s said that continuing to sell products in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the Six-Day War in 1967, “is incompatible with our values.”
The Vermont company, which its founders, both Jewish, sold to the British company Unilever two decades ago, said it would not renew the contract of its Israeli licensee, which expires at the end of 2022, because the licensee sells Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in what the company calls “occupied” areas.
“We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year,” Ben & Jerry’s said.
The statement added that the company “will stay in Israel through a different arrangement,” but did not elaborate. The Israeli franchise is located in southern Israel, within Israel’s internationally recognized pre-1967 borders.
Many Israeli and Diaspora Jews say that Ben & Jerry’s has singled out Israel while ignoring the actions of other nations, and that it was the Palestinians who rejected the two-state solution drafted by the United Nations.
“There are over 100 disputed territories that involve over 120 countries around the world, yet Ben & Jerry’s only decided to boycott Israel. Don’t tell me it has nothing to do with antisemitism,” Yoni Michanie, a Jewish Israeli, wrote on Twitter.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid termed the territories’ boycott a “shameful surrender to antisemitism, to BDS and to all that is wrong with the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish discourse,” using the acronym for the “boycott, divest, sanction” movement that targets Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.
Lapid urged the 30-plus U.S. states that have passed laws prohibiting their local governments from contracting with people or entities that boycott Israel to enforce them against Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever.
Some U.S. Jewish groups have called for a stateside boycott of Ben & Jerry’s, and several Jewish-owned stores in the U.S. have said they will no longer carry its products.