BDS on Ice, as Ben & Jerry’s Israel Under New Management

‘We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement and have no intention of changing that position,’ the ice cream maker’s parent company claims.

AP/Tsafrir Abayov
Israelis visit the Ben & Jerry's ice-cream factory at the Be'er Tuvia Industrial area, July 20, 2021. AP/Tsafrir Abayov

In a blow to the global Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will once again be available at the West Bank. To make that happen, the conglomerate Unilever, owner of the brand, sold the ice cream maker’s licensing rights to an Israeli-owned company, American Quality Products. 

In the wake of the transaction, Unilever announced that sales of the products under Hebrew and Arabic names would resume across Israel and the West Bank. In a statement on Wednesday, Unilever said: “We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement and have no intention of changing that position.” 

The move reverses a decision by the Ben & Jerry’s board to cease marketing and sales of its ice cream in the West Bank. The Vermont-based ice cream maker explained, “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” 

Israel’s minister of foreign affairs, Yair Lapid, who is soon to be prime minister, hailed the move as “a victory for all those who know that the struggle against BDS is, first and foremost, a struggle for partnership and dialogue, and against discrimination and hate.” 

Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction is a movement that sides with the Palestinian Arabs in their war against the Jewish State. Its strategy consists of boycotting business conducted with the Israeli government and Israeli businesses.

In effecting its boycott, Ben & Jerry’s relied on a provision of the 2000 purchase agreement with Unilever that granted it “the right to make decisions about its social mission.” Under this mandate, the progressive ice cream maker has recently increased support for other social justice measures, such as Black Lives Matter and the movement for gay rights. 

In announcing the shift in policy,  Unilever asserted that it “reserves primary responsibility for financial and operational decisions and therefore has the right to enter this arrangement.” 

Pro-Israel groups that oppose the boycott movement have welcomed the decision by Unilever. In another victory, a United States federal appellate court ruled last week that state bans on government agencies contracting with private sector companies that support BDS was constitutional.

“This represents a victory for common sense and sends a message that discriminatory BDS campaigns will be vigorously fought through worldwide efforts against hatred towards the only Jewish state,” the chief executive officer of StandWithUs, Roz Rothstein, said. 

The chief executive officer of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, William Daroff, also welcomed the news. “This is a victory against discrimination and for dialogue and inclusion,” he said.

The head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, tweeted that “this news is as welcome as a scoop of Cherry Garcia on a hot summer day.”


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