June 13, 2024
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June 13, 2024
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Ben & Jerry’s New Flavor: BDS

On Monday, July 19, Unilever-owned ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s announced it would end sales in “Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).” According to the company’s full statement, product sales in Israeli settlements are “inconsistent with our values,” and will be ending by 2022 when the longstanding license agreement that Ben & Jerry’s has with its Israeli producers expires.

“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,” reads the statement on the Ben & Jerry’s website.

The Teaneck-based kashrut organization Kof-K, which certifies Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the United States, learned of the decision at the same time that everyone else did, according to the Jewish Press. When contacted for comment, Rabbi Yehuda Rosenbaum told The Jewish Link that Kof-K was still preparing a response, which they would have “in the next several days,” as of July 19. [It is important to note that Ben & Jerry has been owned for the past 20 years by Unilever, which owns dozens of retail brands. Notably, it also owns Hellman’s Mayonnaise, Lipton, Breyer’s, Magnum as well as Dove Soap, Vaseline, Axe and many others.]

Teaneck-based grocery store Glatt Express Supermarket released a statement on Monday that they would no longer be carrying Ben & Jerry’s in-store following the announcement. “Food in general should not be politicized, especially in this way,” owner Dani Secemski told The Jewish Link. “Glatt Express will always stand with Israel…and we are looking forward to carrying other brands of ice cream.” Within a day of the statement being posted on social media, the post was shared more than 250 times with many likes and comments.

Hours later, Cedar Market of Teaneck and Aron’s Kissena Farms in Queens followed suit by pulling pints from their shelves as well. By Monday evening, Seasons pulled Ben & Jerry’s products from all of its stores in Clifton, Lakewood, Scarsdale, Queens and Lawrence.

Teaneck resident Danit Forman, a rising junior at Stern College for Women, is working at the Ben & Jerry’s located in Englewood for the summer. While she thoroughly enjoys her job, this decision by the corporate office has put her in a tough position. “The owner, manager and other employees are amazing and have been so supportive,” said Danit, “but they understand that this is very difficult for me personally.” Danit’s struggle was only exacerbated when a woman came into the store this week and announced that she never buys Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but came in specifically to show support for the decision. In the end, Danit believes standing in solidarity with the State of Israel and not succumbing to the pressures of anti-Israel groups like BDS is far more important than her job and is, sadly, handing in her notice this week.

Supporters of the Boycott, Divest & Sanction (BDS) movement, which advocates for a worldwide boycott of Israel and its products and exports, were thrilled with Ben & Jerry’s and its decision. With a headline touting “success,” the BDS movement stated that they 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.” The BDS official Twitter account tweeted the statement with the following caption: “We warmly welcome their decision but call on Ben & Jerry’s to end all operations in apartheid Israel.”

Many Israeli leaders have been quick to respond to the beloved ice cream maker’s decision. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett released a sharp statement calling the announcement “morally wrong.”

“The boycott isn’t working and it will not work, and we will fight it with everything we’ve got,” the prime minister said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued a statement in response to the announcement, calling the move a “poor and wrong” decision. “The company’s decision constitutes a surrender to ongoing and aggressive pressure from extreme anti-Israel groups… [they are] voluntarily cooperating with economic terrorism, led by the BDS movement; an anti-Israeli movement with antisemitic undertones,” read the Foreign Ministry’s statement.

Lapid added, “We call Ben & Jerry’s to withdraw its wrong decision. We are confident that this wrong decision will resonate among Israel’s many friends worldwide.”

Pointing out some of the irony of the decision to pull out from Israel, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren tweeted: “Ben & Jerry’s is not boycotting China because of Tibet or the mass incarceration of Uyghurs or even the West Bank Palestinians, only the Jews of Judea and Samaria who like their ice cream. So the makers of Chubby Hubby and Urban Bourbon single out Israel and fuel anti-Semitism.”

And there is no shortage of domestic uproar—American supporters of Israel have taken to social media to express their disappointment with the ice cream maker. Executive Director of Zionist organization Stand With Us Michael Dickson tweeted: “I’ve made a list of all the ways @benandjerrys ice cream boycott will bring peace in the MidEast: >ends<.”

CEO of advocacy organization Jewish on Campus Julia Jassey shared with her 8,600 followers on Twitter that it’s “very strange” that antizionists “obsessed over the practices of one Jewish-owned company and boycotted them until they changed their manufacturing practices.”

Co-founder of the New Zionist Congress Isaac de Castro tweeted jokingly: “Häagen-Dazs all the way.”

Channa Fischer reports on digital Jewish and Zionist advocacy. She resides in Washington Heights.

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