Ben & Jerry's said it will stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, calling it "inconsistent with our values." The company did not say when it would halt sales, but its sole local Israeli manufacturer vowed to continue selling as usual until its license expires at the end of 2022.
The Vermont-based ice cream maker said it would continue sales inside Israel but would not renew its license with the Israeli manufacturer that has produced the company's legendary flavors locally for more than three decades.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the decision "antisemitic," and called on U.S. states with laws against Israel boycotts to sanction Ben & Jerry's. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the move "morally wrong" and vowed to fight it.
"Ben & Jerry's has decided to brand itself as the anti-Israel ice cream," Bennett said in a statement.
The decision, announced Monday, follows a campaign by pro-Palestinian activists in the U.S. to boycott the confectioner for allowing ice cream sales in Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Palestinians seek that territory for a future independent state.
The BDS movement, which calls for boycotts of Israel and which Israeli leaders label discriminatory, said Ben & Jerry's "is finally bringing its policy on Israel's regime of oppression against Palestinians in line with its progressive positions on Black Lives Matter and other justice struggles."
In a similar move in 2018, the Airbnb property rental company announced it would forbid listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Five months later, it reversed that decision and said it would continue to list settlement properties but donate profits from all West Bank listings to organizations supplying humanitarian aid around the world.
It's unclear if Ben & Jerry's, owned by Unilever, is just targeting Israeli settlement sales, or if it also intends to end sales of its ice cream in Palestinian-owned stores in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A Ben & Jerry's spokesperson declined to elaborate. Two stores that sell Ben & Jerry's ice cream in the Palestinian city of Ramallah declined comment.
The company said it would "stay in Israel through a different arrangement" and would provide details on a later date. It is unclear how the company intends to continue sales in Israel while preventing sales in Israeli settlements. Israel outlaws boycotts of its settlements in the West Bank.
Unilever, which acquired Ben & Jerry's in 2000, said "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very complex and sensitive situation" and that "we have always recognized the right of the brand and its independent Board to take decisions about its social mission. We also welcome the fact that Ben & Jerry's will stay in Israel."
Avi Zinger, owner of Ben & Jerry's local Israeli manufacturer in southern Israel, told Ynet News that the company refused to renew his license after it expires in late 2022 because he declined to stop sales in the West Bank.
"I answered, 'I am Israeli and I cannot limit my sales there and also the law requires me to sell in all of Israel,' Zinger told YNet News. "I cannot go against my country."
In an Instagram video, Zinger called on Israelis to stand by the local Ben & Jerry's manufacturer and "help us fight, because our war is everyone's war."