Ben & Jerry’s has angered the Israeli government by announcing it will stop selling its products in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, described as “Occupied Palestinian Territory” by the notoriously woke ice cream brand. The announcemnt has conveniently led to a profitable spike in sales at the height of summer.
In yet another example of unproductive “gesture politics” Ben & Jerry’s are drawing attention to settlements in both territories, longstanding issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict that will not be resolved by low supplies of a particularly sickly ice cream.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the occupied Palestinian territory. We also hear and recognise the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners,” read a statement by the brand, which is owned by mega multi-national Unilever and was founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who are both Jewish.
The reality on the ground is rather different. The Israeli media assure consumers the ice cream will continue to be enjoyed everywhere until at least 2022 when Ben & Jerry’s licencing deal with a factory located in the country expires. However, the indications are that the deal could easily be renewed, and even if it is not, B&J “will stay in Israel through a different arrangement,” Unilever stated.
Clouding the licencing issue further was Anuradha Mittal, the chairman of B&J’s independent board, who told NBC news no decision had yet been made and that B&J was not committed to leaving Israel.
In spite of the move appearing completely vacuous, even by the low standards of gesture politics, Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett was quick to denounce B&J’s actions as “morally wrong”.
“There are lots of ice cream but we have only one state,” he said. “Ben & Jerry’s decided to brand itself as an anti-Israel ice cream,” he added.
Bennett got onto the phone to Unilever CEO, Alan Jope, telling him: “From Israel’s standpoint, this action has severe consequences, legal and otherwise, and it will move aggressively against any boycott measure targeting civilians.”
Ben & Jerry’s semi-embargo could be construed as a cynical ploy to profit from virtue signalling consumers aligned with the BDS movement that is intent on undermining Israeli investments and products.
Israel National News reports that sales in Israel itself jumped a staggering 21% on the back of the announcement and that the company’s division in Israel is pushing back against the embargo declared by global HQ.
“Since the morning hours there has been a significant increase in sales of our ice cream, over 21% over sales on a normal day,” said Ben & Jerry’s Israel in a statement.
“Don’t stop! We must put pressure on the Unilever Corporation, the owners of the global Ben and Jerrys, to turn” their decision around.
“We call on everyone to stand firm with us and with the hundreds of Israeli workers who could be affected by the global BDS pressures. As it was yesterday, so it is today, we will continue to sell in all of Israel and to all Israelis.”