Ben & Jerry’s announced plans to end sales of their ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem, following two months of silence from the company on social media in the face of public backlash.
Ben & Jerry’s has a factory in Be’er Tuviya, Israel, and has conducted business with Israel since 1987. The brand, which was found in Vermont in 1978 but is currently owned by consumer goods conglomerate Unilever, typically markets itself as upholding progressive values and publicizing support for social justice movements.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the company said in a statement posted on its website Monday. “We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
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Although there is an ongoing debate about the nature of the conflict in Israel, Human Rights Watch, an international humanitarian organization that researches and advocates for human rights, stated in a recent report that Israel’s actions have amounted to committing crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians.
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.
The announcement – posted on Ben & Jerry’s Twitter and Instagram accounts and website – 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.
Given the rise in violence and global tensions in recent months, Ben & Jerry’s has fallen subject to backlash and boycotts for their involvement in the region. The public outrage against the brand has received extensive media coverage.
According to the brand’s statement, Ben & Jerry’s will not renew its license agreement with a longstanding partner that manufactured and distributed ice cream in Israel. The license expires at the end of next year.
However, while the company is halting sales in Occupied Palestinian Territory, Ben & Jerry’s stated it “will stay in Israel through a different arrangement” and “share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.”
Contributing: Associated Press; Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY
Contact Ella Ruehsen at (207)509-1429 or [email protected]