The icy fallout from the end of Ben & Jerry’s distribution in Israeli settlements
Kosher supermarkets are rethinking their inventory. Politicians are emptying their freezers. And the Prime Minister of Israel promises to get involved in local American politics.
The reactions were all part of the firestorm eccentric ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s unleashed on Monday morning with his announcement that he would no longer sell ice cream in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
The Vermont-based company, founded by two Jews and long known for its leftist politics, had gone dark on social media for two months since the recent spike in violence in Israel and Gaza. The announcement broke that silence, simultaneously infuriating Israel’s supporters who said the move was an unfair attack on Israel and disappointing pro-Palestinian supporters who said the business should have gone further.
Israeli politicians, supermarkets in the United States, various experts and even the current Israeli licensee of Ben & Jerry’s sued the ice cream maker and its parent company, the British multinational Unilever, for its statement. (The company’s Jewish founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, no longer manage the brand but have often used their frozen treats to advance social justice causes.)
Here are some of the reactions to the company’s freezing of its trade relations in Israel.
Israeli politicians go on the offensive
The reactions of the Israeli leadership have been harsh. Despite the distinctions Ben & Jerry’s made in his statement between Israel and the “Occupied Palestinian Territory”, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the move a “boycott of Israel” and said that Ben and Jerry’s “had decided to go. present as an anti-Israel ice cream “. cream. ”His predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted: “Now we Israelis know what ice cream NOT to buy.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the architect of the current ruling coalition who is generally to the left of Bennett when it comes to the Palestinians, went even further, calling the decision a “shameful surrender to the anti-Semitism, BDS and everything wrong with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric. He called on US states to take national action against Ben and Jerry’s based on state laws that prohibit government contracts with entities that boycott Israel.
Israeli Minister Orna Barbivay posted a TikTok video of her throw a pint in the trash; the flavor she discarded could not be determined at press time.
Other Israeli public figures appeared to compare the boycott of the ice cream company’s settlements to terrorism. Eran Cicurel, editor-in-chief of the Israeli public broadcaster, tweeted that the color scheme of Ben & Jerry’s statement was similar to that of the flag of the terrorist group Hamas.
Amichai Chikli, a right-wing lawmaker in the Israeli Knesset, tweeted: “Ben & Jerry’s you chose the wrong side” and posted an infamous photo from 2000 of a Palestinian who had just killed two Israeli soldiers showing his hands through a window, covered in soldiers’ blood.
In American responses, a mirror of Israeli sentiment
American Jewish groups offered various responses to the corporate scoop that matched their political orientation.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, chairman of the left-wing Israeli defense group J Street, said Ben & Jerry’s made “a reasoned and rational distinction between business transactions in the State of Israel and those in the territory it occupies.” , and said the term “anti-Semitism” did not apply to the company’s actions.
Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the left-wing New Israel Fund, said Ben & Jerry’s was not anti-Semitic in leaving “occupied Palestinian territory” because “these lands are not sovereign Israel”.
“To attack people who try to distinguish between sovereign and non-sovereign Israel by calling them anti-Semites is to evade a fact, to abuse the meaning of ‘anti-Semitism’ and ultimately to shine a light on those who would try to work for a future of equality and justice for Israelis and Palestinians, ”Sokatch said in a statement.
The Anti-Defamation League, a centrist group, said he was “disappointed” with the move, adding, “You can disagree with policies without fueling dangerous campaigns that seek to undermine Israel,” but refraining from calling for specific actions.
And the right-wing Zionist organization of America called for an ice cream boycott, claiming that Ben & Jerry’s is “bad for your moral and physical health”. The call was echoed by others like conservative Jewish commentator Ben Shapiro, who Said he would stop eating the mark.
Food Suppliers Consider Practical Changes
Glatt Express Supermarket, a kosher grocery store in Teaneck, New Jersey, announced via Facebook that it will no longer sell Ben & Jerry’s products following the company’s announcement.
“Due to the recent actions of Ben & Jerry’s, Glatt Express will no longer carry Ben and Jerry’s products. Am Yisroel Chai ”, the store wrote in a post.
Glatt Express did not immediately respond to a request for comment; ni Morton Williams, the New York-based grocery chain whose co-owner Avi Kaner also tweeted at B&J Monday. His chain of 16 stores would come together to discuss “the end of sales of your ice cream in our supermarket chain,” Kaner wrote.
Access to Ben & Jerry’s could be limited in another way: some prominent figures from the American Jewish right also started a social media push convince Kosher certifier KOF-K to withdraw Kosher certification from Ben & Jerry’s.
Ben & Jerry’s critics say they’re not happy
Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, an activist group based in Ben & Jerry’s home state who runs a multi-year campaign against the glaciers for doing business in Israel, said the move did not go far enough.
“By maintaining a presence in Israel, Ben & Jerry’s continues to be complicit in the murder, imprisonment and dispossession of the Palestinian people and the violation of international law,” said group president Kathy Shapiro, said in a press release. A related group, Occupy Burlington, had been a driving force behind the latest social media campaign against Ben & Jerry’s.
Meanwhile, CodePink, an international leftist women’s group, hailed the move for showing the pressure works. But the group also said the company should do more.
“Ben & Jerry’s included in the declaration that they would stay in Israel,” Danaka Katovich, Middle East campaign coordinator for CodePink, said in a statement. “I hope Ben & Jerry’s will continue to listen to the Palestinians and their demands and recognize that Israel’s apartheid system exists not only in the Occupied Territories but from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Israeli licensee Ben & Jerry’s explains his side
The Israeli licensee of Ben & Jerry’s, which operates a factory in the town of Be’er Tuvia, took to social media hours after the announcement to denounce the American company and its parent company.
The Israeli distributor has called on Israeli consumers to keep buying Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, saying the hundreds of local workers who make it need their support.
In a recorded video, CEO Avi Zinger said he was told earlier Monday morning that the company would not renew its license when it expires in late 2022.
“They did this because we would not agree to stop selling ice cream in all parts of Israel,” Zinger said, without specifying the distinction between Israel proper and the country’s settlements in the West Bank.
“The reason they did it is because of the pressure from BDS,” Zinger continued. “We are not surrendering and it is important that you support us. I ask you all to be by our side, help us to fight because our fight is everyone’s fight.
In happier times for Ben & Jerry’s-Israel relationship, the company had focused its efforts on its customer base with original flavors exclusive to Israel, including chariot game and “Matzah Crush” – both certified kosher for Passover.