Ben & Jerry's Israel CEO calls for retaliation against ice cream maker

Ben & Jerry's announced that they will stop selling their ice cream in the West Bank.

BEN & JERRY'S has succumbed to BDS pressure and will no longer sell its ice cream in the West Bank (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
BEN & JERRY'S has succumbed to BDS pressure and will no longer sell its ice cream in the West Bank
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

Following Ben & Jerry’s decision to end the sale of ice cream in the West Bank last year, the soon-to-be delicensed CEO of Ben & Jerry’s Israel, Avi Zinger, has asked Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to retaliate against the frozen-dessert maker’s parent company, Unilever Global.

In a letter, Zinger requested that the prime minister implement Israel’s Boycott Law against Unilever, claiming that they are promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) with one company, while supplying the IDF, the government and the State of Israel with goods worth millions of shekels with its other companies

Zinger wrote: “The [country’s] helplessness in the face of a company that is taking boycott measures is undermining Israel’s deterrent power and will lead not only to fatal damage to Ben & Jerry’s Israel, but to many other businesses in the future. Do not look away and allow a wonderful enterprise to meet its end – [implement] the boycott law.”

 The Boycott Law, passed by the Knesset in 2011, enacts immediate sanctions on a boycotting company or organization.

When Ben & Jerry’s first announced its end of sales in the West Bank, Bennett told the global CEO of Unilever: “For Israel, this is an act that has serious legal... consequences, and [the state] will act vigorously against any act of boycott directed against its citizens.”

A Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Israel. (credit: FLICKR COMMONS/JTA)A Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Israel. (credit: FLICKR COMMONS/JTA)

Over the past six months, through cooperation with 33 US states that have enacted laws against the boycott of Israel, the State Department and Jewish communities have been able to get states, including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas and Arizona, to enforce boycott laws against Unilever, which have led to a pulling of investments, holdings and pension funds worth about $1 billion so far.

In a written announcement on their website published July 19, 2021, Ben & Jerry’s said it would “end sales of [its] ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The company elaborated on the decision, saying: “We’re a values-led company with a long history of advocating for human rights, and economic and social justice. We believe it is inconsistent with our values for our product to be present within an internationally recognized illegal occupation.”

In the same announcement, the company said it was neither boycotting nor exiting Israel, and that the move is not to be considered a part of the BDS movement.

“Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different business arrangement,” it wrote. “We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.

Unilever, which employs about 149,000 people worldwide, last week said it would cut about 1,500 management jobs, reshaping its business to focus on five main product areas: beauty and well-being, personal care, home care, nutrition and ice cream.

The company is expected to report lackluster earnings in 2021, as it has struggled to deal with labor, transportation and raw-materials costs.