Ben & Jerry throw the Israeli goverment into turmoil

JVL Introduction

Beneath all the bluster and wild accusations of economic terrorism and antisemitism, the Israeli government is seriously worried by the Ben & Jerry decision not to sell their ice cream in the occupied territories.

They have mobilised their diplomatic missions in North America and Europe to exert all pressure possible to reverse it.

We must make sure they don’t succeed. So add another tub of Ben & Jerry’s to your shopping basket every time!

This article was originally published by Axios on Tue 27 Jul 2021. Read the original here.

Scoop: Israel launches maximum pressure campaign against Ben & Jerry's

The Israeli government has formed a special task force to pressure Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and its parent company Unilever to reverse their decision to boycott Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government is concerned the move by Ben & Jerry’s will encourage other international companies to take similar steps to differentiate between Israel and the West Bank settlements. A classified Foreign Ministry cable, seen by Axios, makes clear the government wants to send a message.

Driving the news: Last week, Ben & Jerry’s announced that from January 2023 they will no longer allow their Israeli franchisee to market their ice cream in the settlements, but will continue to sell it within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

  • That decision from the company, which has taken political positions on a range of issues, came after almost a decade of pressure from pro-Palestinian activists. In the past, the Israeli government managed to convince Ben & Jerry’s not to take such steps.
  • But after the recent fighting in Gaza, the pressure on the company increased. In the last two weeks, it became clear that a decision to boycott the settlements was imminent.
  • The Israeli government tried to press Unilever to stop Ben & Jerry’s from making that decision, but Unilever said the company had the right to take such steps as part of its corporate responsibility and social justice policy.

Behind the scenes: On July 22, the Israeli Foreign Ministry sent a classified cable to all Israeli diplomatic missions in North America and Europe ordering them to start a pressure campaign against Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever in order to convince them to negotiate.

  • Israeli diplomats were instructed to encourage Jewish organizations, pro-Israel advocacy groups and evangelical communities to organize demonstrations in front of Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever offices and put pressure on investors and distributors for both companies.
  • The Foreign Ministry also asked the diplomats to push for public statements condemning the companies and to “encourage public protests in the media and directly with key executives in both companies.” The diplomats were also instructed to echo those protests on social media for maximum visibility.
  • The Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Israeli Consulates around the U.S. were asked to push for the activation of anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) legislation in several states and to engage with governors, mayors, members of Congress and state officials like attorneys general.

What they’re saying: “We need to make use of the 18 months that are left until the decision comes into force and try to change it. We want to create long-term pressure on Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s by consumers, politicians, and in the press and social media in order to lead to a dialogue with the companies,” the cable said.

  • It added that Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever “caved and cooperated with the BDS movement” which it claimed was partially “motivated by antisemitism.” The cable also said the companies’ decision was “hypocritical, goes against the values of corporate responsibility and smells like extreme cancel culture.”

Worth noting: The statement from Ben & Jerry’s didn’t mention BDS, but said it was “inconsistent with our values” to sell ice cream in “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

What’s next: The Israeli Foreign Ministry instructed diplomats to immediately report any new information about efforts by BDS activists to press more companies to follow Ben & Jerry’s.

Comments (13)

  • Benny Ross says:

    I’m happy to report that Jewish dissidents held a Ben & Jerry’s picnic in a Newcastle park on 31 July.

  • rc says:

    I bought the Caramel Chew Chew, the Baked Alaska and the Chocolate Fudge Brownie. In our home freezer (unlike the Sainsbury’s display cabinet which is always frosting up)…”I can see clearly now…” how right B&J are to withhold their fine product from those fortresses of ethnic cleansing and theft, not to mention of exporting pogroms to Arab-majority areas and casual murder…which the Labour Party tops are so keen to defend. Ready to eat more…are YOU?

  • Rosa says:

    B & J’s a bit sweet for my taste, but now definitely on my shopping list. Must check if the Co-op sells it.

  • Jill Friedmann says:

    Great action, I hope it holds. And I hope it puts pressure on other companies to consider more ethical behaviour.

  • michael murray says:

    To paraphrase an old saying: “Revenge is sweeter when it’s served cold.”

  • Jaffer says:

    I have, and will, continue to by a couple of extra tubs every week in solidarity. (plus it’s great ice cream)

  • Koser says:

    I shop online and Ben & Jerry’s are now in my favourite items list and part of my weekly shop. I’ve also found that a great many of my friends are adding Ben & Jerry’s to their weekly shops. Something tells me this was a smart move by Ben & Jerry’s and it wouldn’t surprise me if other businesses now cotton on that it’s in their best interest to do the right thing and stop doing business in the occupied territories.

  • Jack T says:

    I hope other companies will follow B&J/Unilever and realise that not only is it ethical but it’s also profitable to divest from having any involvement in not just the illegal settlements, but also in the apartheid racist State of Israel.

  • MAX COOK says:

    SOLIDARITY with Palestinians everywhere

  • Alan Maddison says:

    In a recent YouGov survey 2 in 3 Labour members supported BDS applied to companies working in the illegal Israeli settlements.

    In another survey a similar proportion of informed US Democrat voters supported a broader BDS against Israel.

    It seems Democrat leaders are out of phase with their grassroots, and it has been suggested the pro-Israel Party position on Israel is influenced by the dominance of Zionist donors.

    Of course in both our countries politicians and activists who support BDS are labelled as ‘antisemitic’, and maybe Biden and Starmer do not challenge this as it comforts their position.

    Perhaps the tide is turning and both leaders need to consider whether they really want to remain on the wrong side of history, and unlike activists deny the values of social justice upon which their Parties were founded.

  • CVA says:

    I was a Haagen Daz ice cream customer, but since Ben & Jerry made the announcement of the company joining BDS I have switched to Ben & Jerry, their ice cream is very good too.
    We need to ensure that Ben & Jerry profits don’t suffer but, if possible do better in order to encourage other companies to join BDS.
    No wonder the Israeli government is worried. Well done Ben & Jerry.

  • DJ says:

    Let’s hope there are more Ben and Jerry’s to throw Israel into turmoil. Petitions and declarations are to be welcomed, but concrete acts of solidarity are sorely needed to defeat Israeli settler colonialism.

  • Julie Speed says:

    Would love to hear more about the picnic in Newcastle, and possibly even get a report on it put in ‘the Word’ – would really appreciate Benny or anyone messaging me on FB about it – would be a cracking idea for others to follow 🙂

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