Pressure Increases on Unilever Over Ben & Jerry’s West Bank Boycott
Backlash continued in Israel on Wednesday to the news that Ben & Jerry’s planned to end sales in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, as the ice cream maker’s parent company Unilever faced increasing pressure over the controversial decision.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog called the general boycott efforts against Israel a “new type of terrorism — economic terrorism,” pledging to oppose attempts to harm the Israeli economy.
“The [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] campaign does not pursue peace and seeks to undermine the very existence of the state of Israel,” he said, speaking at an event for the late former Israeli leader Yitzhak Shamir. “It is aiming its arrows at the Israeli economy.”
On Monday, Ben & Jerry’s announced that the US ice-cream maker would not renew its license agreement with its current Israeli partner, saying that it was “inconsistent” with its values to sell products in “the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
The Burlington, Vermont-based company said it would seek to continue to sell products in the country under a different arrangement, outside the West Bank. Its parent company, the consumer goods multinational Unilever, has already faced various attempts at using political and legal pressure to reverse the move.
In Hempstead, in Long Island, Councilman Bruce Blakeman promised that the town would direct its commissioners to cease contracts and municipal business with the ice-cream maker and Unilever, in accordance with municipal anti-BDS legislation.
“At the Town of Hempstead, we will continue to work only with those who reject acts of hate and economic hostility,” Blakeman said in a statement.
Others went further, such as US Sen. James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, who called for “blocking the sale” of Ben & Jerry’s in the state and in state-owned facilities.
The supermarket chain Morton Williams, which runs 15 stores in New York and one in New Jersey, said it would reduce the Ben & Jerry’s produce carried on its shelves, while kosher markets from New Jersey to Florida said they would stop carrying the brand altogether.
In a Tuesday press conference, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price declined to respond to the Ben & Jerry’s move, calling it “the actions of a private company,” but reiterated that the US “firmly rejects” the BDS movement for singling out Israel.