90 MKs Sign Letter Demanding Unilever Scrap Ben & Jerry’s Boycott

YERUSHALAYIM -
Ben & Jerry’s ice creams on sale at a shop in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Some 90 MKs from all factions in the Knesset on Wednesday signed a letter asking Unilever, which owns Ben & Jerry’s, to immediately revoke the ice cream giant’s decision not to sell its products in Yehudah and Shomron.

Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000 in a deal allowing it to operate with more autonomy than other subsidiaries.

“This is shameful, abusive behavior and above all a decision that excludes large sections of the very public that Ben & Jerry’s world management ostensibly seeks to support,” the MKs wrote, referring to the Palestinians who are employed by the company’s Yehudah and Shomron distributor.

Meanwhile, the government has formed a special task force to pressure Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever to reverse their decision to boycott Yehudah and Shomron.

The government is concerned the move by Ben & Jerry’s will encourage other international companies to take similar steps to differentiate between Israel and Yehudah and Shomron communities.

That decision from the company, which has taken political positions on a range of issues, came after almost a decade of pressure from pro-Palestinian activists. In the past, the Israeli government managed to convince Ben & Jerry’s not to take such steps.

But after the recent fighting in Gaza, the pressure on the company increased. In the last two weeks, it became clear that a decision to boycott Yehudah and Shomron was imminent.

The government tried to press Unilever to stop Ben & Jerry’s from making that decision, but Unilever said the company had the right to take such steps as part of its corporate responsibility and social justice policy.

Last week, the Israeli Foreign Ministry sent a classified cable to all Israeli diplomatic missions in North America and Europe ordering them to start a pressure campaign against Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever in order to convince them to negotiate, Axios reported.

Israeli diplomats were instructed to encourage Jewish organizations, pro-Israel advocacy groups and evangelical communities to organize demonstrations in front of Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever offices and put pressure on investors and distributors for both companies.

The Foreign Ministry also asked the diplomats to push for public statements condemning the companies and to “encourage public protests in the media and directly with key executives in both companies.” The diplomats were also instructed to echo those protests on social media for maximum visibility.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Israeli Consulates around the U.S. were asked to push for the activation of anti-BDS legislation in several states and to engage with governors, mayors, members of Congress and state officials like attorneys general.

It was noted that the statement from Ben & Jerry’s didn’t mention BDS, but said it was “inconsistent with our values” to sell ice cream in “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”