Ben & Jerry’s recently made an announcement that created a firestorm in Israel. The full statement is worth reading:
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). 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. 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.
“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.”
Israeli government leaders have had a meltdown, calling Ben & Jerry’s move: 1) a shameful surrender to anti-Semitism; and 2) a new kind of terrorism. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Ben & Jerry’s has branded itself as an anti-Israel ice cream. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also called on U.S. states that have laws against the movement to nonviolently protest Israeli actions through boycotts to use those problematic and questionable laws to target Ben & Jerry’s. Ironically, other Zionist supporters in the U.S. are leaning into boycotts as a form of protest and have called for a boycott of the ice cream company and for groceries to stop carrying the brand.
It appears that these over-the-top reactions are designed to shift the attention from criminal and brutal Israeli behaviors. In reality, all the Israeli settlements in the Israeli occupied Palestinian West Bank are illegal according to international law. Ben & Jerry’s courageously decided that it would no longer abet this major Israeli crime, although it still will sell ice cream in Israel.
Even though Ben & Jerry’s is standing up for international law and human rights, this is not the major focus of media coverage. Imagine a brave and independent U.S. media that would stress the illegality of Israeli settlements, including in East Jerusalem, as well as point out the cowardice and greed of companies that continue to abet this criminal Israeli behavior.
Israeli leaders have long known that its theft and settlement of Palestinian lands were illegal. For example, a few months after Israel’s aggressive 1967 war in which it seized the Palestinian West Bank and other territories, it knew that establishing civilian settlements there was illegal. Theodor Meron, then legal advisor to Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs, told the Israeli government that settlements in the newly occupied territory were prohibited by Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention on occupied territories. Note that this Convention was established after the horrors of World War II in an effort to prevent future criminal behavior by nations against people living under their occupation. Despite this knowledge, Israeli leaders have continued these crimes for well over 50 years, abetted by the U.S. government and its complicit corporate media.
Israel is afraid that this step by Ben & Jerry’s could encourage other corporations to join them in standing up for international law and human rights. However, if Israel is successful in keeping the media focus on false charges of anti-Semitism, it will be unimpeded in continuing its theft of Palestinian lands and other appalling crimes against Palestinians.