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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July 29, 2021
Webinar: What’s happening in the South Hebron Hills?


In the South Hebron Hills, the southernmost region of the West Bank, there are about 122 communities of shepherds and farmers totaling about 80,000 inhabitants. The communities settled there in the early 19th century in order to be close to the pastures and agriculture they owned. In recent decades Palestinian residents have suffered abuse from violent settlers, which the army either turns a blind eye to or cooperates with. Living in a land declared as a ‘closed military zone’ by the army, Palestinians in the area experience daily the expropriation of their land, the demolition of their homes, and the cutting of their water pipes. (tv.social.org)

What’s happening in the South Hebron Hills? Perspectives from the ground
July 29, 2021 12:00 PM Central Webinar

Join Just Vision and +972 Magazine on Thursday, July 29 at 1pm ET / 8pm Jerusalem time for a conversation on what’s happening in the South Hebron Hills, speaking with activists who have been organizing in the area for years.

In the South Hebron Hills (known locally as Masafer Yatta) in Area C of the West Bank – which the Israeli military has full control over – authorities demolish homes and infrastructure on a regular basis while refusing to grant building permits. For residents of the area, fear of violence from the Israeli settlers that surround their villages is ever-present, and the heavy military presence only leads to greater impunity for the settlers.

In the face of this decades-long struggle, Palestinian residents of the South Hebron Hills, with support from Israeli and international activists, are using tools – from journalism and social media, to storytelling and non-violent direct action – to resist ongoing annexation and draw local and international attention to the injustices they experience or witness daily.

Speakers for this event include Basil Al-Adraa, a Palestinian journalist, activist and resident of the area; Yuval Abraham, an Israeli reporter for Local Call, our Hebrew-language news site co-published with 972 Advancement of Citizen Journalism; and Natasha Westheimer, Australian-American water management specialist and anti-occupation activist based in Jerusalem. The discussion will be moderated by Just Vision’s Executive Director and Local Call Co-Publisher, Suhad Babaa.

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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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Israeli soldiers killed 16-year-old Mohammad today

Defense for Children Palestine, June 11, 2021

Israeli forces shot and killed 16-year-old Mohammad Said Mohammad Hamayel with a live bullet to the chest this afternoon in Beita, a village southeast of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

When Mohammad was killed, Beita village residents were protesting against a new illegal Israeli outpost recently established on the village’s land. In the last month, Israeli settlers have established a new illegal outpost, Evyatar, on lands belonging to Beita and two other Palestinian villages.

Read and share Mohammad’s story »

Palestinian children grow up in a hyper-militarized context, where Israeli soldiers confront protesters with live ammunition and armed settlers take over land that has belonged to their families for generations. Too often, Palestinian children’s lives are cut short by Israeli forces who kill with impunity. Systemic impunity has fostered an environment where Israeli forces know no bounds.

Mohammad is the eighth Palestinian child shot and killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank this year. We mourn with his family and community and remain committed to documenting and exposing these grave human rights violations against Palestinian children. Thank you so much for your solidarity and support.

In solidarity,

Ayed Abu Eqtaish
Accountability Program Director
Defense for Children International – Palestine

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June 17, 2021
One People, Segregated IDs Premiere

12:30 pm Central

Join Rabet for the premiere of our latest documentary, “One People, Segregated IDs”.
Learn more about how Israel’s apartheid policies, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, segregate Palestinians based on their ethno-national identity, issuing different types of IDs for Palestinians depending on their location, each with varying freedoms and rights.

The event will include a panel dicussion as well as a live stream of the documentary, followed by a Q&A session on the ways in which the tiered ID system segregates Palestinians and impacts their basic human rights.

We will be joined by the following speakers:
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director, Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Maha Abdallah, International Advocacy Officer, The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Moderated by:
Mayss Al Alami, Research and Advocacy, the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD)

For more information and to attend please register here.

Life Under Occupation: The Misery at the Heart of the Conflict

An eviction in East Jerusalem lies at the center of a conflict that led to war between Israel and Hamas. But for millions of Palestinians, the routine indignities of occupation are part of daily life.


Israeli soldiers firing tear gas towards Palestinian protesters in the town of Kfar Qaddum. Samar Hazboun for The New York Times

David M. Halbfinger and Adam Rasgon, The New York Times, May 22, 2021

JERUSALEM — Muhammad Sandouka built his home in the shadow of the Temple Mount before his second son, now 15, was born.

They demolished it together, after Israeli authorities decided that razing it would improve views of the Old City for tourists.

Mr. Sandouka, 42, a countertop installer, had been at work when an inspector confronted his wife with two options: Tear the house down, or the government would not only level it but also bill the Sandoukas $10,000 for its expenses.

Such is life for Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation: always dreading the knock at the front door.

The looming removal of six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem set off a round of protests that helped ignite the latest war between Israel and Gaza. But to the roughly three million Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and has controlled through decades of failed peace talks, the story was exceptional only because it attracted an international spotlight.

For the most part, they endure the frights and indignities of the Israeli occupation in obscurity.

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“FREE PALESTINE RALLY” IN MILWAUKEE DRAWS DIVERSE CROWD


Lee Matz for the Wiscosin Muslim Journal

Sandra Whitehead, Wisconsin Muslim Journal, May 21, 2021

A crowd gathered Thursday evening at “The Calling,” the orange sunburst artwork on the east end of Wisconsin Avenue, for a “Free Palestine” rally planned by a coalition of organizations.

A post on the Wisconsin Chapter of Bail Out the People listed the sponsors: American Muslims for Palestine, Islamic Society of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace, Voces de la Frontera, Rohingya American Society, several mosques, and Students for Justice in Palestine chapters from Marquette University, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and Muslim Student Association chapters from MU and UWM.

Hundreds, possibly 1,000, shouted “Free Palestine,” “End the Seige on Gaza” and other chants to the beat of a snare drum. Big green, white, black and red Palestinian flags waved and signs announced: “We Can’t Breathe Since 1948,” “Pakistan for Palestine,” and “Justice is our Demand,” among countless others. Many wore keffiyehs, the black and white Palestinian scarfs. Passersby in cars honked and waved.

Speeches in front of “The Calling” bookended a march down Prospect Avenue that stretched from the east end of Wisconsin Avenue almost to Juneau Avenue. Mahdi Jaber, a recent UWM graduate, and others led the lively crowd in chanting between speakers and from the back of a truck as marchers followed.

Continued at Wisconsin Muslim Journal >>