August 16, 2021
Webinar on Ben & Jerry’s recent decision

We’re delighted to invite you to a timely webinar on Monday, August 16th, at 4:00 pm ET.

How did an ice cream company come to dominate the global discourse on Israel-Palestine? On July 19th, beloved ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would end sales of its ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The backlash from the Israeli government, from US elected officials and from right wing organizations was immediate and overwhelming, with calls for US governors to use anti-boycott laws to take legal action against Ben & Jerry’s for their decision.

Join Just Vision, Americans for Peace Now and Jewish Currents along with guests Ben Cohen (Founder, Ben & Jerry’s) and Anuradha Mittal (Board Chair, Ben & Jerry’s) in conversation with our Executive Director, Suhad Babaa; Jewish CurrentsEditor-at-Large, Peter Beinart; and President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, Hadar Susskind, to discuss this recent decision by Ben and Jerry’s and its far-reaching implications.

To register for this event, please click here. We hope to see you there.

With resolve,
Emma Alpert
Deputy Director, Just Vision

Speaker bios:

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Ben & Jerry’s vows to stop sales in Israeli West Bank settlements

‘This BDS win is because of our people power’

On Monday Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would stop selling ice cream in Israeli settlements. Israel has promised to fight the move “with all our might,” while activists say it is yet another sign of how BDS is entering the mainstream.


Boycott Ben & Jerry’s promotion by Vermonters for a Just Peace

MICHAEL ARRIA, Mondoweiss, JULY 19, 2021

On Monday Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would stop selling ice cream in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. The move comes after years of pressure from activists in the company’s home state of Vermont.

“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT),” reads a statement on the company’s website. “We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”

“We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region,” it continues. “We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.”

The company also indicated that it would stay in Israel under a different arrangement and share details connected to that move soon. However, a statement put out by Ben & Jerry’s Independent Board of Directors claims that disclosure was made by its CEO Matthew McCarthy  and parent company Unilever without first consulting the board.

“The statement released by Ben & Jerry’s regarding its operation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (the OPT) does not reflect the position of the Independent Board, nor was it approved by the Independent Board,” reads a press release put out by board chair Anuradha Mittal. “By taking a position and publishing a statement without the approval of the Independent Board on an issue directly related to Ben & Jerry’s social mission and brand integrity, Unilever and its CEO at Ben & Jerry’s are in violation of the spirit and the letter of the Acquisition Agreement.”

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What the Ben & Jerry’s Decision Reveals About Israel

Backlash to the ice-cream maker’s decision to distinguish between Israel and the territories it occupies has shown that, for many Israelis, the distinction no longer exists.


Menahem Kahana / AFP / Getty

Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic, JULY 23, 2021

No company does progressive politics quite like Ben & Jerry’s. The Vermont-based ice-cream maker has a reputation for corporate activism, owing to its support for a wide array of left-wing causes, including marriage equality, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter. But when the company announced this week that it will no longer sell its products in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, it faced an outcome that every ice-cream maker fears most: a meltdown.

The matter of Israel’s settlements, which the international community regards as illegal under international law but which the Trump administration said will need to be resolved through a political and not a judicial process, has long been a thorny issue in Israel. (The Biden administration has yet to articulate its own policy on this.) When it comes to ice cream, though, the country’s notoriously fractious political sphere is virtually unanimous. Israel’s right-wing prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said that Ben & Jerry’s has decided to brand itself as an “anti-Israel ice cream.” His centrist coalition partner, Yair Lapid, called the move a “shameful surrender to anti-Semitism.” Israeli President Isaac Herzog of the center-left, who once committed to removing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, called Ben & Jerry’s decision to shun them “a new kind of terrorism.” The newly minted opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, suggested that Israelis should boycott the brand. One centrist cabinet minister dutifully posted a TikTok of herself chucking a pint of what looked like Dulce de Leche into the trash.

That an ice-cream maker could cause such an uproar at the highest levels of Israeli politics says a lot about how sensitive Israel is to the very notion of boycotts against it—even those that, like Ben & Jerry’s, are limited in scope. More fundamentally, the dustup reveals a growing divergence between how the world sees Israel and how the country sees itself. While the international community, including the United States, continues to distinguish between Israel and the territories it occupies, the reaction to the Ben & Jerry’s decision has shown that, as far as many Israeli politicians are concerned, that distinction no longer exists.

On its face, Ben & Jerry’s move to end its business in the occupied territories, which the company described as being inconsistent with its values, poses an arguably negligible problem for Israel from a practical standpoint—one that would affect, at most, the roughly 6 percent of the population living in one of the country’s sprawling settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both of which have been under Israeli control since 1967. Ben & Jerry’s has said that it will continue to sell its products in Israel itself. Both Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, declined to comment further, but the implications of the move are clear: While Israeli citizens living in settlements such as Ariel and ​​Ma’ale Adumim may no longer be able to buy Chunky Monkey in their local supermarket, they can find it nearby. (The same cannot be said for Palestinians in the West Bank, who are not afforded the same right to freedom of movement.)

In other words, Ben & Jerry’s decision “has no material impact on Israel whatsoever,” Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israel-based pollster and political strategist, told me. But it does have a political one—and, to the Israelis who feel the need to defend their sovereignty, an existential one. By ending its business in the occupied territories, the company has effectively refused to profit from or legitimize the status quo in the region, a status quo that Israel is deeply invested in protecting. It has also made clear that it will recognize Israel only within its democratic borders. “It’s all symbolic,” Scheindlin said, “but symbolism is huge.”

Why does Israel care about what an American ice-cream brand thinks of its policies? When I put this question to Scheindlin, she told me that for many Israelis, criticism of Israeli policy is often conflated with an existential threat to Israel itself. To hear many Israeli politicians tell it, “criticism from abroad of our policies is anti-Israel, it’s anti-Zionist, and it’s anti-Jewish, or anti-Semitic,” Scheindlin said. “And that’s really the narrative that we’ve been hearing.” There is also the fear that what started with Ben & Jerry’s might not end there; once one company boycotts Israeli settlements, what’s to stop others from joining it?

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Israeli PM vows to ‘act aggressively’ over Ben & Jerry’s ban


Trucks are parked at the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream factory in the Be’er Tuvia Industrial area, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Associated Press, July 20, 2021

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the head of Unilever on Tuesday that Israel will “act aggressively” against Ben & Jerry’s over the subsidiary’s decision to stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem.

British consumer goods conglomerate Unilever acquired the Vermont-based ice cream company in 2000. Ben & Jerry’s said in a statement on Monday that it had informed its longstanding licensee — responsible for manufacturing and distributing the ice cream in Israel — that it will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of 2022.

Bennett’s office said in a statement that he spoke with Unilever CEO Alan Jope about what he called Ben & Jerry’s “clearly anti-Israel step,” adding that the move would have “serious consequences, legal and otherwise, and that it will act aggressively against all boycott actions directed against its citizens.”

The announcement was one of the highest-profile company rebukes of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Most of the international community considers these settlements illegal under international law and an impediment to peace with the Palestinians.

Approximately 700,000 Israelis now live in settlements, around 500,000 in the occupied West Bank and 200,000 in east Jerusalem. Israel considers the entirety of Jerusalem its capital, while the Palestinians seek it as capital of a future state.

Ben & Jerry’s said in its announcement that the sale of its ice cream in territories sought by the Palestinians for an independent state was “inconsistent with our values.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry criticized the decision on Monday as “a surrender to ongoing and aggressive pressure from extreme anti-Israel groups” and said the company was cooperating with “economic terrorism.”

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Seattle Port Demonstration Against Apartheid

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Aisha Mansour‎, The Palestine Solidarity Committee – Seattle, June 13, 2021

Thank you for your readiness to mobilize Seattle! After our successful action yesterday and rally today, we have prevented the ZIM San Diego from unloading for another day!

SSA President Edward DeNike has asked the ZIM San Diego to leave the Port of Seattle but ZIM is refusing. Let’s show apartheid profiteer ZIM what people power can do! Stay tuned for more updates. No mobilization tomorrow morning. Text to subscribe to our alerts (833) 584 – 1948.


BDS Is Gaining Momentum With #BlockTheBoat Actions in Oakland and Seattle, Yoav Litvin, Truthout, June 11, 2021

Methodists Divest from Caterpillar citing Palestinian Evictions


Israeli bulldozers expand the West Bank Jewish-only settlement of Nofei Nehemia in the Salfit District on private Palestinian land, which was expropriated by Israel and declared “state” (public) land, according to the owners. ActiveStills Ahmad Al-Bazz, 13 Aug 2020

Methodist Sabeel-Kairos Group (UK), 5th May 2021

The Methodist Church has sold its shares in the US-based company Caterpillar, citing the continued use of its equipment to destroy peoples’ homes as part of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, and its poor record in Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance.

More photographs have recently emerged of Caterpillar vehicles being used in the destruction of farmland and olive groves, as well as the construction of illegal settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes. Caterpillar claims it is not directly involved in sales into Israel but the likely path of trade via the US military and local agencies is widely known.

Other church bodies have sold out of Caterpillar in the past, as long ago as 2006 the Church of England voted to divest from Caterpillar and in 2014 the US Presbyterian Church did the same. The Quakers have also indicated they would not hold Caterpillar shares, for similar reasons. The recent reports by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, and the international body Human Rights Watch, declaring the situation in Israel/Palestine to meet the criteria of Apartheid, following on many similar statements by Palestinian groups and South African church leaders, including Archbishop Tutu, have added impetus to the international divestment and sanctions movement.

Churches are responding most particularly to the ‘Cry for Hope’ issued by Palestinian Christians last July, which called for such actions as the only means left to bring non-violent pressure on the Israeli Government. The Cry for Hope says ‘the call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) provides a framework for economic, cultural, and academic measures, and for direct political advocacy, as nonviolent means to end occupation and oppression’. Its aim is ‘to exert pressure on Israel to comply with international law, and to call upon its government and its people, in the spirit of the Word of God, to enter into the ways of justice and peace’.

Revd David Haslam, a member of the Methodist Finance Board, said;

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BDS VIctory: Pomona College Students Divest from Occupation in Palestine

RE: BDS Victory: ASPC To Divest Funds From Occupation of Palestine
Contact: Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine
claremontcollegesjp@gmail.com

We are pleased to announce that the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday, April 22, 2021 divesting all ASPC funds from companies complicit in the occupation of Palestine, and banning future use of funds towards such companies[1]. This is an important victory at Pomona College and sets a strong precedent for future solidarity work at Pomona and the other Claremont Colleges in support of the Palestinian liberation movement, and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement in particular. SJP is deeply grateful to ASPC for their support, and additionally thanks the 23 Claremont Colleges student organizations that joined our coalition in support of ASPC divestment from the occupation of Palestine.

Claremont SJP, alongside Claremont Jewish Voice for Peace, introduced this resolution to stand in material and ideological solidarity with Palestinians struggling for their freedom from Israeli apartheid, occupation, and oppression. This action heeds the 2005 BDS call by Palestinian civil society organizations to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel, “until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.” This resolution enacts the divestment of funds under ASPC’s control from the UN Human Rights Council’s list of 112 companies “involved in certain specified activities related to the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (A/HRC/43/71). The resolution also “calls upon the other Claremont Colleges Student Government Associations to follow suit, with an ultimate adoption of a consortium-wide agreement to not allow clubs to use their student government allocations to knowingly invest or spend their funds of items that contribute to further encroachment into Palestinian occupied territories by the UN-designated companies or the Israeli state, or face the loss of ASPC funding.” Claremont SJP reiterates this call to action to the other Claremont College Student Government Associations to pass a similar resolution.

This resolution is by no means the end of the Pomona College and Claremont Consortium community’s responsibility to push for total divestment from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Adopting this amendment is an important first step in reducing our complicity with a country that maintains an illegal military occupation and regularly commits crimes against humanity against the indigenous Palestinian population. As students at Pomona College and the Claremont Colleges, we recognize that our tuition dollars are being used to support companies which directly profit from the ongoing dispossession and oppression of Palestinians.

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The Eighth Circuit’s Narrow Decision About Arkansas BDS

One provision has been invalidated, but the general ban on boycotts of Israel by most state government contractors still stands.

An Arkansas statute generally bans the government from contracting with companies that are boycotting Israel. It defines such boycotts as

  • “engaging in refusals to deal,
  • terminating business activities,
  • or other actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories, in a discriminatory manner” (bullets added).

District Court Judge Brian S. Miller refused to issue a preliminary injunction against the statute, and granted the state’s motion to dismiss the challenge. The court concluded that “other actions …” should be read as dealing with other commercial behavior, and not, say, speech urging boycotts:

While the statute also defines a boycott to include “other actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel,” this restriction does not include criticism of Act 710 or Israel, calls to boycott Israel, or other types of speech. Familiar canons of statutory interpretation, such as constitutional avoidance and [ejusdem] generis [“[w]here general words follow specific words in a statutory enumeration, the general words are construed to embrace only objects similar in nature to those objects enumerated by the preceding specific words”], counsel in favor of interpreting “other actions” to mean commercial conduct similar to the listed items.

And as thus limited to commercial behavior, the court held, the statute likely didn’t violate the First Amendment. (Michael Dorf, Andrew Koppelman, and I filed an amicus brief on appeal agreeing that the law is constitutional if read as limited to commercial refusals to deal.)

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Illinois faculty rejects efforts to suppress Palestinian freedom

Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism
Grave implications for free speech, distracts from actual racism

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN. (INSTAGRAM)

OPEN LETTER, Mondoweiss, DECEMBER 23, 2020

As faculty and staff within the University of Illinois system, we are writing to renew our outrage at the rampant anti-Semitism and racism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, xenophobia, and other forms of hatred and dehumanization.

We are also deeply concerned about the way anti-Semitism is defined in a joint statement issued by UIUC, the Jewish United Fund, Hillel groups, and the Brandeis Center in response to complaints that these avowedly pro-Israel groups filed against the University based on student speech and activism for Palestinian human rights.

Specifically, the statement identifies incidents “that demonize or delegitimize Jewish and pro-Israel students…[or] subjects them to double standards” as expressions of anti-Semitism. This conflation of Jewish religious and ethnic identity with a viewpoint that supports the state of Israel or Zionism as a political ideology is a dangerous tactic that is expressly aimed at silencing any and all debate about Israel and Zionism on college campuses.

The way that anti-Semitism is defined in UIUC’s statement correlates with a definition that has been pushed by pro-Israel groups in legislatures, agencies, and institutions around the country and that was adopted by Donald Trump in an executive order issued in 2019. Those same groups have often funded Islamophobia across this country and have allied themselves with right wing organizations. The definition itself is uncontroversial, but it is accompanied by several illustrative examples intended to guide its interpretation and use. For instance, critiques of Israel as a racist state are treated as expressions of anti-Semitism. As the Brandeis Center has said explicitly in the complaint it filed against UIUC, the definition means that: “anti-Zionism is a contemporary form of anti-Semitism.”

The political project to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is harmful on several levels, and we urge the University of Illinois administration to reject this effort because of the grave implications it has for academic freedom and student free speech on our campuses, the way it distracts from actual racism happening on our campuses, and the ironic consequence of creating an anti-Palestinian/Arab/Muslim environment on campus by targeting students for expressing their experiences and views.

1) The harm to academic freedom and student speech

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