Ben & Jerry’s-Gate: What You Need to Know

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you have probably already heard about Ben & Jerry’s announcement they will end their partnership with their Israeli licensee – who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region – in order to end sales of their ice cream “in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (they presumably mean Judea and Samaria).

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. 

We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.

Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.

Here are some things you need to know.

To Boycott or Not To Boycott

My initial reaction was to announce I will be boycotting Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – in my usual subtle way:

But now that I have had time to process things more, the reaction – at least for those of us living in Israel – should not be to boycott Ben & Jerry’s in Israel just yet.

Ben & Jerry’s Israel has not stopped at this announcement, but is going out of their way to ‘troll’ Ben & Jerry’s corporate:

In other words, we should continue to support the Israeli licensee for the next year and a half.

Peak BDS

Ben & Jerry’s announcement seems to be ‘peak BDS’:

  • Trying to exclusively punish the Jewish state while ignoring actual human rights abuses around the world
  • Ending up punishing palestinian Arabs, who are those the BDS movement claims to be helping. In this case, not only will palestinian Arab employees of the Israeli licensee end up losing their jobs, but palestinian Arabs will no longer be able to eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Members of Ben & Jerry’s Board Wanted a Full Boycott of Israel

Ben & Jerry’s Board Member Anuradha Mittal might seem to be one of those behind the boycott move, but even she is unhappy with the end result, which is not a boycott of the entire state of Israel:

A statement Monday by Ben & Jerry’s that it will no longer distribute its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” but will remain in Israel was released by the company’s owner, Unilever, without consulting with the ice cream maker’s board — which had intended to put out a different statement that made no mention of committing to continue doing business with the Jewish state, Ben & Jerry’s chairman Anuradha Mittal told NBC News.

While many companies and countries have differentiated between Israel and its settlements in the West Bank, a complete boycott of Israel by a major Western company has been almost unheard-of in recent years.

Mittal said the board had been pushing for years to stop selling its products in settlements and intended to release a different statement from the one Unilever put out. NBC, which reviewed the intended statement, said it made no mention of remaining in Israel and focused on Ben & Jerry’s commitment to social justice causes.

So any suggestion this is not an antisemitic move is disingenuous.

The Move Follows Two Months of Silence on Social Media

Leading up to the announcement, Ben & Jerry’s were being heavily criticized for not commenting on the recent Israel-Gaza conflagration. This led to new calls to boycott Ben & Jerry’s, as well as ramped-up criticism of Ben & Jerry’s presence in Israel – which began years ago. And by Israel, I mean all of Israel.

On May 18th, Ben & Jerry’s tweeted about a new mint flavor (via Twitter). To be clear, it’s not the tweet itself that seems to have generated controversy, but instead, the brand’s silence on an issue happening at that time when they had previously been so vocal about social issues considered highly important to left-leaning buyers (via The Takeout). As bombs were flying between Israel and Palestine, the ice cream’s overseas practices came into question. In short, Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen and Israeli businessman Avi Zinger make and sell ice cream in occupied Palestine. 

Shares the Boston Globe, “For the past three decades, Ben & Jerry’s has licensed a factory in Israel, which produces and distributes ice cream in the country, and also sells in and caters to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem” (via Twitter).

The production and distribution of Ben & Jerry’s in Israel does not seem to match with the other social values shared by the company as far as Twitter is concerned. As one fan called out, “Whatever you top it with, settlemint flavor is in bad taste. Stop profiting from Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing in Palestine!” (via Twitter). Another admitted fan of the brand responded “Hey guys love you & your product i work at a Grocery Coop who sells your product BUT I along with our staff will be discussing this issue &( about selling Ice Cream in what is NOW Isreal & completely ignored calls from Palestine ) listening to what our customers want.” Instead of responding to mounting criticism and calls for boycott, the brand has remained uncharacteristically silent which has recently been called out by larger organizations, including the Boston Globe.

It would seem honoring the likes of Linda Sarsour was not enough to appease those baying for their blood.

This prolonged criticism and calls to boycott Ben & Jerry’s might have led to the new announcement, or perhaps they were duking it out in the boardroom during this entire time. Either way, it seems clear that BDS’ bullying and harassment worked on those who anyway have messed up views.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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