Israel's PM blasts Ben & Jerry's
Ben & Jerry's will no longer sell ice cream in occupied Palestinian territories, saying it's inconsistent with the values of the socially conscious brand.
The ice cream company, which is owned by Unilever, has been doing business in Israel since 1987.
But the brand has come under scrutiny for its relationships in Israel in recent years as tensions in the region have flared up.
The Vermont-based company has aligned itself with liberal causes, including diverting some funds destined for police departments and investing "that money in community-driven solutions that foster real health, peacekeeping, and safety," it said in a statement in June 2020. The company has called on the United States to end white supremacy and launched a podcast on racism in America last year. In December 2020, Ben & Jerry's unveiled a Colin Kaepernick-inspired nondairy ice cream flavor called "Change the Whirled."
Fans have taken the company to task for doing business in Israel - especially in West Bank settlements, considered illegal under international law - arguing it doesn't align with Ben & Jerry's liberal image.
The company has been mostly silent on the topic. In 2015, Ben & Jerry's posted on its website that it was "keenly aware of how complex the local market can be," and it believed it could affect positive change by maintaining a presence in the region.
But Monday, Ben & Jerry's had a change of heart, saying it heard and recognized the concerns shared by its fans and partners.
Ben & Jerry's said it informed its licensee in Israel that its agreement will not be renewed when it expires at the end of 2022. After then, Ben & Jerry's will no longer be sold in the Palestinian territories. The company's ice cream will, however, continue to be sold in Israel, "through a different arrangement," Ben & Jerry's said, noting it will update customers on those details in the future.
Israeli politicians blasted the decision by the ice cream brand. The country's new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said that Ben & Jerry's has decided to brand itself as the"anti-Israel ice cream."
Ayelet Shaked, Israel's minister of interior, tweeted her disdain for Ben & Jerry's decision Monday.
"Your ice cream is not in line with our taste," she said. "We will manage without you."
The Israeli-Palestinian relationship is fraught with conflict, with some of the disagreements stemming from who settled in the land thousands of years ago. International law considers East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and Gaza as occupied territory under United Nations Security Council Resolutions, though that characterization is disputed by Israel.