The Ben & Jerry’s ice cream giant announced Monday that it will no longer distribute its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” apparently referring to West Bank settlements, though the flavors will remain available in Israel.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners,” the company said in a statement.
“We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. 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,” it said.
However, the company said it would continue to supply its ice cream inside Israel, albeit through a different distributor.
“Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready,” the statement added.
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) July 19, 2021
Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, and today, more than 400,000 Israeli settlers live there. Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal and an impediment to the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Israel sees the territory as disputed and says the fate of the settlements must be resolved in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem, including the Old City and its holy sites, and considers the whole city the undivided capital of the Jewish state. The Palestinians claim the eastern part as the capital of a future state, and the international community sees Israeli neighborhoods there as settlements, a designation Israel disputes.
Ben & Jerry’s current Israel distributor condemned the ice cream company’s decision to drop its licensing agreement with them.
“The decision is entirely unacceptable. Ben & Jerry’s International decided not to renew their agreement with us in a year and a half, after we refused their demand to stop distribution throughout Israel,” it said. “We urge the Israeli government and consumers — don’t let them boycott Israel.”
“Keep ice cream out of politics,” it added.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned Ben & Jerry’s’ decision, calling it “a disgraceful capitulation to antisemitism, to BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel], to all that is evil in the anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish discourse.”
The foreign minister said he would ask the over 30 US states to implement their anti-BDS laws against Ben & Jerry’s in retaliation. The laws require states to divest from companies that boycott Israel.
“We won’t be silent,” he insisted.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted: “Your ice cream brand doesn’t match our tastes. We’ll be fine without you.”
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu also weighed in. “Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy,” he wrote on Twitter.
Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy ???????????? https://t.co/j7VNpIWX0f
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) July 19, 2021
The head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, blasted Ben & Jerry’s for ending its sales in areas claimed by the Palestinians for their future state.
“The residents of Samaria [West Bank] and this land will stand strong long after Ben & Jerry’s ice cream melts and disappears from the world,” Dagan said in a statement.
“We won’t give in to this antisemitism, which has permeated American Jewry,” he said, likely referring to the progressive Jewish founders of the iconic ice cream brand.
Meanwhile, a left-wing Meretz lawmaker blamed Israel’s settlement expansion for Ben & Jerry’s decision.
“Ben & Jerry’s is not boycotting Israel, but rather the settlements. You may not like it, but this is the price of settlement expansion, land grabs, and the blurring of the Green Line,” tweeted MK Michal Rozin.