Israel is moving to confront Ben and Jerry amid wider fears


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The announcement by ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s that it will stop selling its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” does not describe the company’s full plan. Ben & Jerry intended to boycott Israel entirely and not renew the contract with the Israeli franchisee, but Unilever’s management, which owns Ben & Jerry’s, is blocking that intention for now.

The issue, of course, quickly became diplomatic. Israel has launched a counter-campaign, including a legal battle with the help of states that have enacted laws against the activities of the BDS movement (boycott, sale, sanctions), and 35. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid issued a sharp statement clearly stating the direction of Israeli action. government: “Ben & Jerry’s decision is a shameful surrender to anti-Semitism, BDS … more than 30 states in the US have laws against BDS surrender passed in recent years. I plan to go one by one and demand that these laws be invoked against the law of Ben & Jerry. “

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan appealed to the governors of 35 countries with legislation banning the boycott of Israel, recalling the successful lifting of the West Bank boycott announced by Airbnb in November 2018, with the help of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who banned employees. the Florida administration to use Airbnb’s services on business trips. Other state governors joined the move, including threats to withdraw investment, and Airbnb withdrew.

At this point, Ben & Jerry intended, as mentioned, to boycott all of Israel by not renewing the franchise agreement in December 2022. This stems from statements by Ben & Jerry board chairman Anuradha Mittal, who was furious at Unilever’s announcement that it would continue to deliver Ice cream in Israel in other ways, after the expiration of the contract.

In an interview with the NBC network, Mittal said the parent company Unilever acted contrary to the independence clause in an agreement the company’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, signed with international food giant in 2000. Mittal and the board of directors claim that the clause covers decisions related to the company’s values ​​and that it was the basis for stopping the sale of its products in Russia, Morocco and Hong Kong.

In practice, U.S. state law generally works against foreign companies. So, for example, the states of New Jersey and Colorado stopped doing business with the Bank of Denmark when it stopped investing in Israeli companies with connections or subsidiaries in Judea and Samaria.

Federal legislation refers to the boycott in the context of international trade law, which includes prohibitions and restrictions imposed on businesses that boycott business in Israel or in territories over which Israeli sovereignty exists, which excludes Judea and Samaria. This law could capture Ben & Jerry’s acknowledgment that the intent is to halt sales across Israel.

Federal pressure will add another pressure on Ben & Jerry’s. His move led to a call for a boycott of the company in the United States, and supermarket chains with Jewish owners announced that they would stop selling Vermont ice cream products.

The boycott of Ben & Jerry comes at the same time as a recent survey among Jews in the United States whose results are not pleasant for Israel. According to the survey, nearly a quarter of American Jews think Israel is a state of apartheid, 22% agree with the statement that Israel continues genocide against Palestinians, and 9% believe that Israel has no right to exist as a sovereign country at all. The results among young people are even worse.

Ben & Jerry co-founder Ben Cohen is known as an enthusiastic supporter and associate of left-wing American politician Bernie Sanders and spares no criticism of Israeli politics. The current board of directors resembles the founders, so his decision to boycott Judea and Samaria, as well as Israel as a whole, is no surprise.

The sharp reactions of the Israeli government reveal fear of the consequences of the boycott. Ben & Jerry’s announcement has significant symbolic significance. It provides legitimacy to the concrete steps of the anti-Israel leftist in the United States, which has significant influence in the democratic administration. Pressure on members of Congress, such as Rashida Harbi Tlaib, Ilhan Abdullahi Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, by Congressional activists to end U.S. military aid and arms sales to Israel is growing and gathering supporters with each new Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip.

At this stage, it seems that Israel is focusing on a direct campaign against Ben & Jerry, presumably to avoid a furor that will put the matter in the diplomatic sphere. Naftali Bennett’s government’s approach to Washington is the opposite of Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach, and is designed to avoid possible confrontations with the Democratic Party, within which the struggle over Israel is being waged. Bennett issued the statement after speaking with Unilever CEO Alan Jope saying he “watched with the greatest gravity Ben & Jerry’s decision to boycott Israel” and that “this is a subsidiary of Unilever, which has taken an apparently anti-Israel step.”

“Prime Minister Bennett stressed that from the perspective of the State of Israel, this is an action that has serious consequences, including legal ones, and that it will take strong action against any boycott directed against its citizens,” the statement said. Bennett’s broad coalition, on the other hand, is ambiguous on the issue. Meretz blames the Israeli settlement in Judea and Samaria for the blow to Israel. MK Mossi Raz told Globes: “Israeli citizens are again being harmed by settlements that are illegal and immoral.” The party leaders, ministers Nitzan Horowitz, Tamar Zandberg and Issawi Frej, remained silent. And the Labor Party preferred to remain silent.

Posted by Globes, business news in Israel – en.globes.co.il – July 20, 2021

© Copyright Globes Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2021


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