Ben & Jerry’s decision to end sales of ice cream in Israeli settlements in the West Bank is only the first step on the road to a total boycott of the country, a leading activist in the company’s hometown declared on Tuesday.
Standing outside Ben & Jerry’s flagship store in Burlington, Vermont, local businessman Wafic Faour told Channel 13 that while he was initially upset that a decade of activism and protests had not led to a complete break with the Israel, he saw Monday’s announcement as “a positive and small step toward a complete boycott.”
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While initially upset that the company had not gone further, the Palestinian-American businessman changed his mind after seeing Israeli politicians railing against the settlement boycott.
When “the Israeli Prime Minister and the ex-Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu come out and call to boycott Ben & Jerry, I thought there are a lot of positive things that came of their statement and our action,” he said, declaring that “occupation [as] a flavor is not good.”
Asked if he personally eats B&J, he replied that he would “have to sit down with the Ben & Jerry’s first to talk about what is the mechanism of their stopping their sale on Jewish only settlements, and maybe we’ll celebrate together with them by eating Ben & Jerry.”
In a statement, local group Vermonters for Justice in Palestine declared that Ben & Jerry’s had to go further, calling on it to push other firms to leave the country and insisting that “by maintaining a presence in Israel, Ben & Jerry's continues to be complicit in the killing, imprisonment and dispossession of Palestinian people and the flaunting of international law.”
The statement also quoted Faour, who is a member, as saying that “since 1947, Palestinian people have been victimized by Israeli Zionists who have arrived there through racially-selective immigration policies. Ben & Jerry's should completely disengage from Israel and apologize for their normalization with an apartheid state over the past decades.”
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According to NBC News, the decision to stop selling in the settlements came over the objections of the ice cream maker’s independent board, which retained control over “preserving and expanding Ben & Jerry's social mission, brand integrity and product quality” in the wake of its sale to conglomerate Unilever in 2000.
Chairwoman Anuradha Mittal told the network that the board had wanted to remove a sentence stressing that Ben & Jerry’s was “fully committed” to its presence in Israel from the statement, but that the final wording was released without board approval.
“I am saddened by the deceit of it," Mittal said. "This is not about Israel. It is about the violation of the acquisition agreement that maintained the soul of the company. I can't stop thinking that this is what happens when you have a board with all women and people of color who have been pushing to do the right thing,” Mittal told NBC.
Mittal is the founder of the progressive Oakland Institute think-tank and a longtime critic of Israel. She has tweeted in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, called for the end of military aid to Israel and demanded that National Geographic sever ties with actress Gal Gadot because of her IDF service.
In a statement, the BDS movement “warmly” welcomed Ben & Jerry’s announcement, but called on the firm “to end all operations” in Israel.
“Ben & Jerry’s, a leading socially responsible international company, is finally bringing its policy on Israel’s regime of oppression against Palestinians in line with its progressive positions on Black Lives Matter and other justice struggles. We hope Ben & Jerry’s has understood that, in harmony with its social justice commitments, there can be no business as usual with apartheid Israel.”
According to food blog Yeah That’s Kosher, kosher supermarkets across the US have begun removing Ben & Jerry’s products from shelves in a counter-boycott.
According to the site, chains, such as Gourmet Glatt, Aroma Kosher Market, and Seasons Market, have all stopped stocking the company’s ice cream.
In Australia, the Kashrut Authority of New South Wales removed Ben & Jerry's ice cream from its database of kosher products.
"Although Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is approved as kosher by a prominent, international kosher certification body, The Kashrut Authority of Australia & NZ decided to remove the products from its list due to the decision by Unilever to not allow supply of its ice cream to consumers in Judea and Samaria," Kashrut Authority President Baron M Revelman told Haaretz on Wednesday.
"Together with other Jewish communal bodies worldwide the KA is alarmed at the capitulation of Unilever to the anti-Israel boycott movement. Anti-Zionism is an insidious contemporary form of Anti-Semitism. The BDS movement has unilaterally sided with terrorist organizations who have been responsible for numerous atrocities over decades including the recent unprovoked and excessive bombardment of missiles on Israel’s civilian population."