Why an ice cream maker boycott is so much loose in Israel

Anyone can see online how the Israeli Minister of Economic Affairs takes her Ben & Jerries out of the freezer and targets them in the trash. If the ice cream maker no longer wants to sell ice cream in Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem, she doesn‘t want to sell ice cream anymore either, so the woman of the ruler makes crystal clear in the video she posted.

Economically it doesn’t matter much for Israel where Caramel Chew Chew or Chocolate Caramel Cookie Dough is on the shelves, but in politics, Ben & Jerry‘s boycott makes a lot loose. Since the news came out early this week, Israeli politics and media have been working hard with it.

In a statement, the US company states that it is not in line with their values to sell ice cream in occupied Palestinian territory. They say they respond to the concerns of their fans and trusted partners. Sales in Israel will continue, the ice maker also reports.

For the pressure

The decision is seen as a means of exerting pressure on Israel, mainly because of settlement politics. The international BDS movement (the abbreviation stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions) has been calling for penalties against international policy for years. The American action group โ€œVermonters for Justice in Palestineโ€ tried to move Ben & Jerry’s into action. For that pressure, the Vermont State company now seems to be overwhelm.

The president of BDS Netherlands, Nicole Hollenberg, welcomes the decision of the American ice cream company. โ€œOur branch has also worked on the campaign for years. Now Ben & Jerry‘s finally approaches this moral issue that fits what the company is known for,โ€ says Hollenberg. โ€œThey’re sending a big signal, and we hope they‘ll take the next step in the future.โ€

It‘s never enough’

And that‘s exactly the problem, says the Director of Center Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI), Hanna Luden. โ€œIt’s never enough for the BDS movement,โ€ she says. โ€œThey prefer to see Israel disappear completely from the map.โ€ That‘s why she doesn’t understand that Ben & Jerry‘s is currently borrowing herself to such a statement.

According to Luden, the measure comes at a critical moment in Israeli politics. The new government has many different parties, each with a different opinion on Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. That’s why Luden finds the timing remarkable: โ€œThe discussion about settlements in Israel is currently in full swing.โ€

โ€œNormally, the ice cream maker has fun actions to address social issues, such as temporary ice cream flavors with crazy names with a political message, but here they suddenly address things differently,โ€ says Luden. She also thinks the company measures two sizes. โ€œWhy is this decision taken against Israel, but don‘t they stop sales in countries where human rights are not respected, such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran?โ€ she wonders.

Gain for the BDS Movement

For the BDS movement, the decision of such a large company as Ben & Jerry’s is a confirmation of a trend that has been visible for a long time. โ€œYou see our movement grow tremendously,โ€ Hollenberg says. Since this year‘s Israel missiles and the Gaza bombing, the animo has increased: โ€œAt first nobody knew what BDS was, but now everyone knows that. Worldwide, but certainly in the Netherlandsโ€.

Also, BDS actions in the Netherlands are increasingly supported, says Hollenberg. She points to a campaign against dates from Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. โ€œThose dates are made on Palestinian land, with Palestinian water, while the Palestinians themselves are short of them.โ€ According to her, more and more supermarkets and wholesalers are looking for alternatives.

โ€œIn Israel, they will fear that if such a big company as Ben & Jerry’s makes this decision, more companies will follow,โ€ Hollenberg concludes.

CIDI President Luden is not afraid of that. โ€œI think companies generally make commercial decisions,โ€ she says. โ€œThis action ultimately hits the Israeli factory where the ice has been made over the past 35 years. Where Israelis and Palestinians make their money.โ€

Until the end of 2022, the ice is still available in the Jewish settlements in Israeli-occupied territories.