Peace, Love and Boycotts?

Ice-Cream brand Ben & Jerry’s want to boycott what they call “Occupied Palestinian Territories” – what is behind this campaign? We bring you the scoop.

By Rolene Marks

One would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t love a creamy, sugary, indulgent delicious ice cream treat. We all have our favourites. Mine, ironically, is Ben & Jerry’s “Cinnamon Buns”. Go figure.

Sadly, over the last two weeks I, like many of you reading this has lost my appetite for ice-cream. I am almost at the point of being lactose intolerant! This aside, the statement by the Ben & Jerry’s recently that they will “not be selling their ice-cream to the Occupied Palestinian territories” has left a decidedly sour taste in our mouths.

Is the gate closing? Israel in a ‘cold war’ over Ben & Jerry’s ice cream ban.

Naturally this was met with widespread global condemnation for a of reasons. Do people really want a sprinkling of politics with their ice cream? Chief virtue signalers (okay Board members) of Ben & Jerry’s believe that we do. The problem is that they are singling out one conflict at the expense of many around the world and still sell their calorific treats to countries like Malaysia who has a dismal record with LGBTQ+ rights or China currently imprisoning over a million Uyghurs in concentration camps and more. Hypocritical much?

At least be an equal opportunity virtue signaler!

Settlements have long been a major source of debate – including inside Israel but are they the sole obstacle to peace? There are other major factors impeding the brokering of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians and while many argue that settlements may be a part of this, we need to also consider decades of incitement of hate against Israel and the Jewish people, refusal to recognize Israel’s existence by Palestinian leadership and the pay-for-slay scheme which perpetuates an economy of terror.

Match gone Sour. Blue-and-white Ben & Jerry’s with Hebrew to match. (Photo by Naama Barak)

Ben & Jerry’s, instead of doing something productive and bridge-building, would rather deny Jews and Palestinians in these disputed territories their cartons of Cherry Garcia and such. The peacenik founders of Ben & Jerry’s said in an op-ed in the New York Times that they are proud of their boycott, and that while they are “proud Jews who support Israel” this is in line with their values and the best decision in the history of their company. The Jewish world and many who see this as flagrant discrimination and yes, antisemitism, is going to break out in a rounding rendition of Kumbaya any time soon.

But is there something more to what meets the eye happening behind the scenes?

Not content to sell over-priced calorific frozen treats to the world, the Ben & Jerry’s Board, operating independently from their holding company, Unilever, made this decision unilaterally – and with the advice of Omar Shakir, Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Israel-Palestine. Shakir served as the sole advisor. International law expert, Eugene Kontorovich revealed the scope on Twitter last week.

A source at Ben & Jerry’s revealed that the company’s decision to boycott Israel was influenced by Omar Shakir, who was kicked out of Israel in 2019 for BDS activities and rejected calls to hear opposing opinions to Shakir’s narrative. The head of the Board is Anuradha Mittal, another proponent of BDS who describes herself as being an “activist for indigenous rights”. Except for Jewish indigenous rights! 

Mittal has spent the last few weeks blocking Jewish voices opposing hers including reputable ones like Combatting Antisemitism, and Michael Dickson, Director of Stand With Us Israel.

This is more than a storm over ice-cream. Is this part of a wider campaign fueled by organisations like Human Rights Watch who have no interest in finding practical, peaceful solutions but would rather demonise and exclude one side – the Israeli?

Catering’ to anti-Semitism. Israeli leaders slammed Ben & Jerry’s saying the woke company “surrendered to anti-Semitism” with Israel’s Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett adding “it will turn out to be a business mistake, too.”

Israel has been swift to respond. Government officials from the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Interior Minister condemned the move as immoral and anti-Israel. There are massive concerns about the ramifications that this could have on the local manufacturer who stand to possibly lose their license at the end of 2022, which would result in unemployment for many staff including Palestinians. Israelis, in a show of solidarity have been buying up stock from the local Ben & Jerry’s Israel manufacturer.

Unilever are facing a conundrum. While they support Ben & Jerry’s right to make decisions independently, they unequivocally condemn BDS and stand by their operations in Israel. Condemning BDS as “unfairly singling Israel” was a statement released by the US State Department as well.

Bad Aftertaste. Ice cream on offer at Israel’s Ben & Gerry’s factory store. (Photo: courtesy)

Five US States (Florida, Texas, Illinois, New York and New Jersey) have begun sending warnings to Unilever that they will divest their pension funds and more if this move is found to contravene anti-BDS laws. At least 35 US states have these laws in place as BDS is considered anti-Semitic, a sentiment echoed by countries like Germany and Austria.

At least 90 members of the Knesset have sent a petition to Ben & Jerry’s warning them that this unjust action contravenes Israel’s anti-discrimination laws which prohibits discrimination based on where people live.

Will Ben & Jerry’s melt under pressure? We are all watching closely.

Ben & Jerry’s pay off line is “peace, Love and Ice Cream”. It’s a great pity that it doesn’t include Jews and Palestinians.

Disturbing Decision. Ninety members of Knesset urge Unilever to reverse ‘shameful’ Ben & Jerry’s decision.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

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