JERUSALEM - Ice cream company Ben & Jerry's has put a cat among the pigeons by weighing into the Israel-Palestinian conflict,
The company, founded by two Jewish men, has a history of standing up for social justice issues.
"Although Ben & Jerry's will no longer be sold in the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories), we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we're ready," the company said in a statement released on Monday.
"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," the statement said.
"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."
Unilever, which now owns Ben & Jerry's, has distanced itself from the decision arguing that although it is wholly owned, the company is autonomous and has an independent board of directors.
"We are aware that Ben & Jerry's has recently made an announcement. To be clear, Unilever Israel does not manage Ben & Jerry's locally," the company's Israeli office said in a statement. "The brand is run by a competitor's business which owns the Ben & Jerry's franchise in the Israeli market. Unilever Israel had no involvement in this decision. It was made by Ben & Jerry's globally and its independent Board of Directors. We are very proud of our history in Israel and are fully committed to our long-term presence. We employ around 2,000 employees, the majority of which are in our factories in Arad, Acre, Safed and Haifa. In the last decade alone, the company has invested in the Israeli market more than 1 billion NIS, and will continue to invest in its people, brands, and business in the local market," Unilever said.
"There are many ice creams, but only one State of Israel," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett when asked about the move.
"Ben & Jerry's decided to label itself as anti-Israel. This is an ethically bereft decision, and I believe that it will come to be one that is wrong from a business standpoint as well. The boycotting of Israel an island democracy surrounded by terror reflects a complete lack of proportions. The boycott will not work, we will fight it with everything we've got," Bennett added.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was equally vocal.
"Ben & Jerry's decision is a poor and wrong decision. The company's decision constitutes a surrender to ongoing and aggressive pressure from extreme anti-Israel groups," Lapid said in a statement.
"The company is voluntarily cooperating with economic terrorism, led by the BDS movement; an anti-Israeli movement with antisemitic undertones."
"The decision is immoral and discriminatory, as it singles out Israel, harms both Israelis and Palestinians, and encourages extremist groups who use bullying tactics. Not only does the decision not promote peace or a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it strengthens those who oppose reconciliation between the two nations and who call for the destruction of the State of Israel," the Israeli foreign minister said.
"Unilever's announcement cannot hide the fact that it decided to allow Ben & Jerry's, a company it owns, to immorally boycott Israel. It is turning a blind eye to an injustice, when its statement relies on contractual clauses, rather than express an unequivocal moral stance against the BDS movement."
"We call Ben & Jerry's to withdraw its wrong decision," Lapid demanded. "We are confident that this wrong decision will resonate among Israel's many friends worldwide."
Ben & Jerry's has been an advocate for social reform for more than two decades. It has not singled out Israeli settlements, it would appear this is just one of many stands the company y has been and is taking. Ben& Jerry's weighed into Black Lives Matter, and stood a stand on the 6 January 2021 storming of the White House, as well as Climate Change, Trans rights, and Migrant justice along with many others.
"We do these things not to sell more ice cream but because we care about people and have values. All businesses are collections of people with values; it's a force that's always there. But, as Chris often says, companies usually make their values known through things like lobbying: money that never sees the light of day. I believe that increasingly, in a world of hyper-transparency, if you're not making your values known publicly, you're putting your business and brand at risk," Matthew McCarthy, the company's CEO told Alison Beard, a senior editor of the Harvard Business Review earlier this year.
"Our values-led sourcing is in every pint we make. But these purpose pints are maybe the purest representation of our model of using the power of business to drive change. It's also an opportunity for us to bring levity to some tough issues in a respectful way. We make a lot of ice cream every year, and we have a funnel for advocacy partnerships in the same way we do for innovation," the Ben &* Jerry's CEO added.