Even now not one to shy away from a social issue, Ben & Jerry's said via Twitteron Monday (July 19) it will stop selling ice cream in the West Bank/Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) because "We believe it is inconsistent with our values."
The announcement was met with a fair amount of support but lots of protests, especially from Israeli government officials condemning the move. “Ben & Jerry’s decided to brand itself as anti-Israel ice cream," new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.
Don't forget that while Ben & Jerry's has been owned by Unilever since 2000, it was founded in 1978 by two Jewish Americans, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.
Undoubtedly, the decision did not sit well with B&J's licensee in Israel, and perhaps not just for business reasons. "We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry's ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. [But] we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year," the company statement said.
"Although Ben & Jerry's will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we're ready."
No reports we saw quantified how much B&J ice cream is sold in the West Bank, or in Israel. But one report did note Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who also condemned the company on Twitter, was known to be a voracious consumer of ice cream and once had a $2,700-a-year habit while prime minister.
The decision to pull out of the West Bank came after pressure from pro-Palestinian groups, who argued that the sale of Ben & Jerry’s products in Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory was at odds with the company’s support for social justice.
Israel has been condemned the world over, including by the United Nations, for seizing Palestinian properties and building settlements in the West Bank, which it occupied after the 1967 war.