Campaigners have called for an end to the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in settlements since 2013. Settlements are communities established by Israel on land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, described by the UN as a "flagrant violation of international law”.
On 19th July, the company announced on its website: “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
Ben & Jerry’s was founded in Vermont in 1978, and local campaign group Vermonters for Justice in Palestine (VTPJ) spearheaded the campaign to end its sales in settlements and across Israel. In addition to calling for a boycott of the company, the campaign involved meetings with Ben & Jerry’s management, appeals to recipients of Ben & Jerry’s Foundation grant, and petitions.
2021 has seen increased aggression between the Israeli military and Hamas, including several bombings and airstrikes on Gaza by the Israeli military. It is unclear what prompted Unilever’s announcement.
Ben & Jerry’s future in Israel
While Ben & Jerry’s announcement has been praised by campaigners, many call on the company to end all operations in Israel.
Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever has worked with a local franchisee in Israel since 1987. The franchisee has a Ben & Jerry’s manufacturing facility and two scoop shops near Tel Aviv. Unilever will not renew the licensing agreement, which expires in December 2022, though it has stated that Ben & Jerry’s will stay in Israel through an alternative arrangement, the details of which have seemingly not yet been confirmed.
Ian Stokes of VTPJ said,
“The recent announcement by Ben & Jerry’s ending the sale of its ice cream in illegal settlements is very welcome. However, it does not adequately address all of the demands of the boycott call, such as ending sales across Israel. We therefore continue to call for a consumer boycott.”
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement tweeted “Following years of #BDS campaigns @benandjerrys has announced it will end sales of its ice cream in Israel's illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land. We warmly welcome their decision but call on Ben & Jerry's to end all operations in apartheid Israel.”