Ben & Jerry’s has said it will end the sale of its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
It was “inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)” – the company said.
According to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the move was “morally wrong” and would prove to be “financially wrong”.
Since the 1967 Middle East war, both the West Bank and East Jerusalem have been under Israeli control.
There are about 140 settlements where more than 60,000 Jews reside.
But most of the international community considers it illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Ben & Jerry’s shared a statement on Twitter and Instagram saying its decision mirrored the concerns of “fans and trusted partners”.
It further added that these changes would be made after the current licensing arrangements will expire. And that would happen at the end of next year.
“We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region,” the statement said.
“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.”
The company also runs two “scoop shops” in Israel. It said it would distribute its goods in Israel through a different agreement.
And the details of that agreement would be announced: “when we’re ready”.
Ben & Jerry’s has been owned by the UK firm Unilever since 2000. It said that this decision was taken and announced by Ben & Jerry’s and its independent board.
Nevertheless, it continued to be “fully committed” to maintaining an existence in Israel.
The firm’s Israeli licensee was quoted by the Haaretz newspaper as saying:
“Global Ben & Jerry’s decided not to renew the agreement with us in another year and a half in light of our refusal [to comply] with their demand and stop selling throughout Israel.”
“We call on the Israeli government and consumers not to permit a boycott of Israel… Ice cream is not part of politics.”
To this, the Israeli politicians reacted wrathfully.
“The boycott of Israel – a democracy surrounded by islands of terror – reflects a complete loss of bearings. The boycott does not work and will not work, and we will fight it with all our might,” Mr Bennett said.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Ben & Jerry’s move a “disgraceful capitulation” to anti-Semitism and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for a complete boycott of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.
“Over 30 states in the United States have passed anti-BDS legislation in recent years. I plan on asking each of them to enforce these laws against Ben & Jerry’s,” he said.
Moreover, Mahmoud Nawajaa, a spokesman for BDS welcomed Ben & Jerry’s decision and wanted the company “to end all its procedures with the apartheid Israel”.