Florida Gov. DeSantis weighs in on Ben & Jerry’s Israel boycott, requests state action

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Fox Business 22 July, 2021 - 05:20pm 20 views

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“If Ben & Jerry’s wants to have a meltdown & boycott Israel, OK is ready to respond. Oklahoma has an anti-boycott of Israel law in place,” Lankford wrote on Twitter Wednesday. More than two dozen states have laws opposing boycotts of Israel.

The Oklahoma Republican urged his state to “immediately block the sale of all #Benandjerrys” to Oklahomans.

The meltdown comes after the top-selling ice cream maker said a statement that it was “inconsistent” with its values to sell its ice cream in “the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The Vermont-based company, founded by outspoken liberal activists Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, said it would find another way to stay in Israel after its existing agreement expires at the end of next year.

The resulting war on ice cream has been swift.

“Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy,” Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.

The country’s newly sworn in President Isaac Herzog called the boycott “a new kind of terrorism” on Wednesday, according to Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. “Terrorism tries to harm the citizens of Israel and the economy of Israel. We must oppose this boycott and terrorism in any form,” he said at a commemoration ceremony for dead Israeli leaders.

The country’s newly elected Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also warned that the decision would have “serious consequences” for Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, which purchased Ben & Jerry’s in 2000. Unilever called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a “very complex and sensitive situation,” in a statement Monday, adding that it was committed to its ongoing presence in Israel and welcomed the fact that Ben & Jerry’s was planning to stay in the country.

But enraged GOP lawmakers employed some twisted logic, calling for the boycott to be quashed with a boycott, and reigniting efforts to cast supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) fired off a statement blasting the ice cream maker’s decision as “discriminatory” and “a disgrace” that targeted Jewish customers. He urged his state to quickly cut ties with the top ice cream producer and its parent company.

“Our state needs to follow its self-imposed standards, lead by example, and stand up to this anti-Israel and anti-Jewish discrimination,” he said.

Pennsylvania Republican State Rep. Aaron Kaufer also penned a letter urging the state’s governor, attorney general, and treasurer on Tuesday to “end any affiliation or serving of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream” in Pennsylvania state government, agencies and affiliates, state-related universities, parks, prisons, and others based on an act put in place to stand with Israel by promoting trade and commerce in the country.

In an interview with former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) slammed Ben & Jerry’s for depriving Americans of their ice cream, while also urging Americans not to buy their ice cream.

“I think it’s really important that Americans here send a message to Ben & Jerry’s by not buying their ice cream, quite frankly,” she said. “To try to deprive people of their ice cream is really just outrageous and they shouldn’t be participating in what is the BDS movement.”

While not calling for an end to Ben & Jerry’s sales, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, told reporters he thought the decision was a mistake, and that he likely “will not be eating any more Cherry Garcia for a while,” one of the company’s signature flavors.

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday said that the Biden administration does not support the BDS movement which seeks to build economic and political pressure on Israel internationally in solidarity with Palestinians.

“We firmly reject the BDS movement, which unfairly singles out Israel,” Price told reporters on Tuesday. “While the Biden-Harris administration will fully and always respect the First Amendment rights of our citizens, of the American people, the United States will be a strong partner in fighting efforts around the world that potentially seek to delegitimize Israel and will work tirelessly to support Israel’s further integration into the international community.”

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Ben & Jerry’s Israel Boycott Could Cost Unilever

The Wall Street Journal 22 July, 2021 - 07:01pm

Ben & Jerry’s operates in Israel through a licensee, an Israeli company that has been with the brand for 30 years and operates one of its few foreign manufacturing facilities. After a social-media pressure campaign from anti-Israel leftists, the company insisted that the Israeli licensee not sell ice cream in parts of Jerusalem, including the Jewish Quarter, and the West Bank, much of which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority and parts of which are under Israeli civil jurisdiction.

Ben & Jerry’s knew this was an offer the licensee had to refuse. Parts of what the company calls “occupied Palestinian territory” Israel (as well as the U.S.) considers sovereign Israeli territory. Israeli law bars boycotts of Israeli citizens, Jewish or Arab, based on their location. So Unilever cancelled the Israeli Ben & Jerry’s entirely because it wouldn’t engage in a secondary boycott.

Because Ben & Jerry’s is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, the latter is responsible for its boycott. In the past eight years, 33 American states have passed laws that restrict government contracting or investing in companies that boycott Israeli people or businesses. These laws are modeled on similar restrictions on companies that discriminate on other grounds, such as sexual orientation.

This means that, in about a dozen states, state employees’ pension funds will be barred from investment in Unilever. In many other states, government entities will be barred from buying goods or services from Unilever. Moreover, since the 1970s, federal law has banned U.S. companies from participating in foreign boycotts of any country. If it turns out that the Palestinian Authority contacted Ben & Jerry’s or its officers and asked them to boycott, criminal penalties would be available against Unilever.

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Ben & Jerry's to stop sales in West Bank, east Jerusalem; Israel calls move 'immoral and discriminatory' - East Idaho News

East Idaho News 22 July, 2021 - 09:00am

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Ben & Jerry’s said Monday it was going to stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem, saying the sales in the territories sought by the Palestinians are “inconsistent with our values.”

The announcement was one of the strongest and highest-profile rebukes by a well-known company of Israel’s policy of settling its citizens on war-won lands. The settlements are widely seen by the international community as illegal and obstacles to peace.

The move by the Vermont-based ice cream company drew swift reproach from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former leader of the West Bank settlement movement who called it “an immoral decision and I believe that it will turn out to be a business mistake, too.”

The company informed its longstanding licensee — responsible for manufacturing and distributing the ice cream in Israel — that it will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year, according to a statement posted on the Vermont-based company’s website.

The Ben & Jerry’s statement cited “the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”

The company did not explicitly identify those concerns, but last month, a group called Vermonters for Justice in Palestine called on Ben & Jerry’s to “end complicity in Israel’s occupation and abuses of Palestinian human rights.”

“How much longer will Ben & Jerry’s permit its Israeli-manufactured ice cream to be sold in Jewish-only settlements while Palestinian land is being confiscated, Palestinian homes are being destroyed, and Palestinian families in neighborhoods like Sheik Jarrah are facing eviction to make way for Jewish settlers?” the organization’s Ian Stokes said in a June 10 news release.

In a Monday statement, the organization said Ben & Jerry’s actions did not go far enough.

“By maintaining a presence in Israel, Ben & Jerry’s continues to be complicit in the killing, imprisonment and dispossession of Palestinian people and the flaunting of international law,” said the Vermont group’s Kathy Shapiro.

The Israeli foreign ministry called Ben & Jerry’s decision “a surrender to ongoing and aggressive pressure from extreme anti-Israel groups” and the company was cooperating with “economic terrorism.”

“The decision is immoral and discriminatory, as it singles out Israel, harms both Israelis and Palestinians and encourages extremist groups who use bullying tactics,” the ministry said in a statement. It also called on Ben & Jerry’s to withdraw its decision.

While Ben & Jerry’s products will not be sold in the settlements, the company said it will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. But doing so will be difficult. Major Israeli supermarket chains, the primary distribution channel for the ice cream maker, all operate in the settlements.

Founded in Vermont in 1978, but currently owned by consumer goods conglomerate Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s has not shied away from social causes. While many businesses tread lightly in politics for fear of alienating customers, the ice cream maker has taken the opposite approach, often espousing progressive causes.

Ben & Jerry’s took a stand against what it called the Trump administration’s regressive policies by rebranding one of its flavors Pecan Resist in 2018, ahead of midterm elections.

The company said Pecan Resist celebrated activists who were resisting oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice. As part of the campaign, Ben & Jerry’s said it was giving $25,000 each to four activist entities.

Aida Touma-Sliman, an Israeli lawmaker with the Joint List of Arab parties, wrote on Twitter that Ben and Jerry’s decision Monday was “appropriate and moral.” She added that the “occupied territories are not part of Israel” and that the move is an important step to help pressure the Israeli government to end the occupation.

The West Bank and east Jerusalem were captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. Some 700,000 Israeli settlers now live in the two territories — roughly 500,000 in the occupied West Bank and 200,000 in east Jerusalem.

Israel treats the two areas separately, considering east Jerusalem as part of its capital. Meanwhile, Israel considers the West Bank as disputed territory whose fate should be resolved in negotiations. However the international community considers both areas to be occupied territory. The Palestinians seek the West Bank as part of a future independent state, with east Jerusalem as their capital.

Israel in recent years has become a partisan issue in Washington, with many Democrats — particularly of the party’s progressive wing — growing increasingly critical over a number of Israeli policies, including settlement construction, and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s close ties with former President Trump. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been an outspoken critic of Israel.

The BDS movement — shorthand for a grassroots, Palestinian-led movement that advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli institutions and businesses — applauded Ben & Jerry’s decision as “a decisive step towards ending the company’s complicity in Israel’s occupation and violations of Palestinian rights,” but called upon the company to do more.

“We hope that Ben & Jerry’s has understood that, in harmony with its social justice commitments, there can be no business as usual with apartheid Israel,” a statement read.

The Israeli government says the BDS movement masks a deeper aim of delegitimizing or even destroying the entire country.

The Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing the roughly 500,000 Israelis living in West Bank settlements, said “there’s no need to buy products from companies that boycott hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens because of the place they choose to live.” It said Ben & Jerry’s decision “brought a bad spirit to such a sweet industry” and called on Israelis to buy locally produced ice cream this summer.

Ben & Jerry’s move on Monday may not be the final chapter in the saga. Airbnb announced in 2018 that it would stop advertising properties in Israeli settlements. Several months later, after coming under harsh criticism from Israel and a federal lawsuit by Israeli Americans who owned property in the settlements, the company reversed its decision.

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