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Ben & Jerry's set to stop sales in occupied Palestinian territory

After the ice cream company claimed to boycott Israel owing to its continued occupation in the region, it faced several threats from local politicians and the Israeli government alike.

Ben & Jerry's set to stop sales in occupied Palestinian territory
Image Source: Ben & Jerry's Hands Out Ice Cream, Calling Attention To Need For Police Reform. WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

In a press statement released on 19 July, the ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry's announced that they would no longer be selling their products in Israel, that is, occupied Palestinian territory. The move was motivated by Israel's ongoing colonial project in the region, which has resulted in the loss of hundreds of Palestinian lives over the past few decades. Many have questioned whether the decision will result in tangible consequences for the Israeli state. Despite this, several politicians in the United States have already called on state governments to block the sale of Ben & Jerry's within the country, The Hill reports.



 

 

"We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the occupied Palestinian territory," the official statement from Ben & Jerry's reads. "We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners." The ice cream manufacturer enjoys a "longstanding partnership" with a licensee who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. They are presently working on changing this. The company affirms, "We have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year."



 

 

There is, however, a caveat: The press release states, "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." Therefore, progressive critics have called the move into question, claiming that it ultimately makes little difference. One Twitter user wrote, "This means nothing if there is no condemnation of Israel, and profits will still be made there." Another added, "The thing about the Ben & Jerry's Israel embargo is that it does [nothing] except make their consumers like them more. Corporate activism is about nothing but the bottom line."



 

 

Despite this caveat, US politicians have called on state governments to impose local bans on the sale of Ben & Jerry's. For instance, taking to Twitter, Republican Senator James Lankford called on his state of Oklahoma to "immediately block the sale of all Ben & Jerry's in the state and in any state-operated facility to align with our law." Lankford was referring to a bill that was passed in Oklahoma in May 2020 that declares Israel “a prominent trading partner of the State of Oklahoma" and "that the state, and those companies that do business by and through the state, in the interest of the state's economic policy, should not boycott trade with Israel."



 

 

It adds that "the state “shall not adopt a procurement, investment or other policy that has the effect of inducing or requiring a person to boycott the government of Israel or its instrumentalities, or to boycott a person doing business in Israel or territories under its jurisdiction, when such boycott is on the basis of such person's location in such places.” The bill was signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt last year, but state Representative Mark McBride, one of the primary authors of the bill, claimed that this law would only apply to the state of Oklahoma and who they do business with. He shared in an interview, "If Ben & Jerry’s was a vendor [of the state], then we would not do business, but they are not a vendor of Oklahoma." Some have also baselessly accused the company of anti-semitism, but Ben & Jerry's is yet to respond to criticism.



 

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