Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream has announced that it will no longer sell its ice-cream in the occupied Palestinian territories, saying the sales are “inconsistent with our values.”
The announcement on Monday was one of the highest-profile rebukes by a well-known brand of Israel’s settlements which are regarded as illegal under international law.
In a statement posted on the company’s website, the Vermont-based ice-cream maker says it recognises “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,” the statement said. “We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the licence agreement when it expires at the end of next year.”
Aida Touma-Sliman, an Israeli lawmaker with the Joint List of Arab parties, wrote on Twitter that Ben & Jerry’s decision Monday was “appropriate and moral”. She added that the “occupied territories are not part of Israel” and that the move is an important step to help pressure the Israeli government to end the occupation.
Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said: “We welcome the decision of any company to stop its work and investments in Israeli settlements.”
Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, called the decision “a shameful capitulation to antisemitism” and said he would take up the issue with the more than 30 states that have legislation against the BDS movement which advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli institutions and businesses.
The West Bank and East Jerusalem were captured by Israel in the 1967 six-day war. Now, 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the two territories – roughly 500,000 in the occupied West Bank and 200,000 in East Jerusalem.
Israel treats the two areas separately, considering East Jerusalem as part of its capital. Meanwhile, Israel considers the West Bank as disputed territory whose fate should be resolved in negotiations. However the international community considers both areas to be occupied territory. The Palestinians seek the West Bank as part of a future independent state, with East Jerusalem as their capital.
While Ben & Jerry’s products will not be sold in the settlements, the company will stay in Israel.
The Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing Israelis living in West Bank settlements, said: “There’s no need to buy products from companies that boycott hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens because of the place they choose to live.”
It said Ben & Jerry’s decision “brought a bad spirit to such a sweet industry” and called on Israelis to buy locally produced ice-cream this summer.
The BDS movement applauded Ben & Jerry’s decision as “a decisive step towards ending the company’s complicity in Israel’s occupation and violations of Palestinian rights”, but called upon the company to do more.
“We hope that Ben & Jerry’s has understood that, in harmony with its social justice commitments, there can be no business as usual with apartheid Israel,” a statement read.