Ben & Jerry’s ice cream announces boycott of Israeli West Bank settlements
(JTA) — Following pressure from pro-Palestinian activists, Ben & Jerry’s announced Monday that it would stop selling ice cream in “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
The Vermont-based ice cream brand said it would continue operating in Israel, suggesting that it is planning to pull its products from stores located in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the company said. “We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
A subsidiary of the British conglomerate Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s also said it will allow its controversial contract with a licensee that manufactures the brand’s ice cream at a facility in Israel proper and distributes it in the region to lapse next year.
The company will maintain a presence in Israel “through a different arrangement” that will be unveiled in the future.
Known for its embrace of progressive politics in its marketing strategy, Ben & Jerry’s has long been a prime target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that seeks to change Israeli policies it says harm Palestinians.
Among the countless brands owned by Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s is uniquely vulnerable to such pressure because of a special provision that grants it independence from the larger company. The sale to Unilever in 2000 tasked a special board of directors with preserving the ice cream brand’s “social mission” and gave it the power to override certain corporate decisions to do so.
As protests and violence engulfed Israel in May, scores of users flooded the social media pages of the ice cream brand with criticism and calls to boycott the country. Ben & Jerry’s could not promote its flavors without being bombarded by political messages.
On May 18, the social media accounts of Ben & Jerry’s went silent and stayed that way for two months until Monday, when the announcement on Israel was made.