Israeli prime minister warns of ‘severe consequences, including legal,’ for Ben & Jerry’s
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet warned of “severe consequences” for Ben & Jerry’s after the Vermont-based ice cream company announced it would cease sales to occupied Palestinian territories.
An Israeli government readout of a call Tuesday between Bennet and Unilever, Ben and Jerry’s parent company, said the prime minister denounced the move, which includes not pulling out of Israel itself, as “anti-Israel.”
He stressed that he views the decision “with the utmost gravity,” and “emphasized that from the perspective of the state of Israel, this is an action that has severe consequences, including legal, and it will take strong action against any boycott directed against its citizens,” the readout said.
Ben & Jerry’s, which has taken up several liberal causes over the years, made its announcement on Monday.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners,” the company said a statement that noted that sales in the OPT will continue until the license expires at the end of 2021.
In its own statement on Monday, Unilever stated that, as part of its 2000 acquisition agreement with Ben & Jerry’s, “We have always recognised the right of the brand and its independent Board to take decisions about its social mission.” Unilever added that it welcomed how the company is choosing to stay in Israel while adding that the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very complex and sensitive situation.”
An official with the Israeli government signaled that he hoped the 35 states in the United States that have adopted laws or other measures condemning the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement and restricted cooperation with companies engaged in Israel boycotts, would crack down on the ice cream company.
“Ben & Jerry’s decision represents shameful surrender to antisemitism, to BDS and to all that is wrong with the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish discourse. We will not be silent,” Yair Lapid, the Israeli foreign minister, said in a tweet shortly after the ice cream company’s announcement. “Over 30 states in the United States have passed anti-BDS legislation in recent years. I plan on asking each of them to enforce these laws against Ben & Jerry’s. They will not treat the State of Israel like this without a response.”
The boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement was started in 2005, seeking to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by putting pressure on companies and governments that have ties to Israel, according to the movement’s website.
Jewish and Israeli groups have long decried the movement as anti-Semitic.