Israel in cold war against Ben & Jerry’s ice cream ban

US ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s announced it will no longer sell its products in the occupied Palestinian territories

BEER-TUVIA (ISRAEL) – Israeli Avi Zinger said the ice cream he makes usually brings joy, but Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has plunged his factory into a political storm.

“We will continue to sell anywhere related to Israel,” provocative Zinger told AFP at his factory in Beer-Tuvia, south of Tel Aviv, where 160 workers produce pints of the popular ice cream .

On Monday, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s announced it would no longer sell its ice cream in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, namely the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which have been under Jewish state control since 1967.

More than 670,000 Jewish settlers live in the two territories, in communities widely considered illegal under international law.

Arab-Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh, whose Joint List bloc represents many Palestinian citizens of Israel, posted on social media a photo of himself eating ice cream.

“The diet is going well,” he wrote, playfully supporting Ben & Jerry’s decision.

The Israeli government hit back at the ice cream maker, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaking directly to the CEO of Unilever, owner of Ben & Jerry’s.

On Thursday, Bennett said Israel would “use all the tools at its disposal” to fight the decision.

The Israeli government has for years fought the BDS movement, which calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish state for what it describes as the mistreatment of Palestinians.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, in a letter urged 35 of the 50 states that make up the United States to use the anti-BDS laws they have passed that prohibit boycotting Israel.

Israeli President Issac Herzog called the boycott a “new form of terrorism”.

But the PA said Herzog should thank Ben & Jerry’s for sounding “a wake-up call”.

“Either Israel wakes up from its occupation and strives to end it, or it will face a total boycott,” he said.

– “Separate politics and ice” –

Zinger said he wanted to sell to everyone: to Palestinians and Israelis, whether they live in Tel Aviv or in a settlement.

“We cannot boycott Israeli citizens for political reasons,” Zinger said.

He insisted that his refusal to comply with a boycott is the reason Ben & Jerry’s decided not to renew their license agreement which expires at the end of next year.

Meanwhile, the Beer-Tuvia factory continues to operate, but employees are worried.

“I fear for my job and those of my friends who work here,” Ayelet Damlao, 38, told AFP.

On social media, the first calls to boycott the ice cream giant were followed by calls from Israelis to support the local franchise in its stance against the decision taken at the Vermont headquarters.

Customer Moshe Weizman said he visited the outlet store with his wife and two sons in solidarity.

“I have come to show my support” for the local producer, he told AFP.

“We have to separate politics and ice cream,” said Weizman, of the southern city of Ofakim.

“Even more people than before are coming to buy ice cream to support us,” said 19-year-old ice cream merchant Omer Granada.

As a committed “optimist,” Zinger, who imported the brand 35 years ago, hopes Ben & Jerry’s will back down, just as Airbnb did in 2019.

The online accommodation booking platform had said it would remove listings from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, but reversed its decision as it battled lawsuits in Israel and the United States.

Comments are closed.