World

Israel vows to ‘act aggressively’ against Ben & Jerry’s – Times of India


JERUSALEM: Israel’s prime minister vowed on Tuesday to “act aggressively” against the decision by Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling its ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories, as the country’s ambassador to the US urged dozens of state governors to punish the company under anti-boycott laws.
The strong reaction reflected concerns in Israel that the ice cream maker’s decision could lead other companies to follow suit. It also appeared to set the stage for a protracted public relations and legal battle.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said he spoke with Alan Jope, chief executive of Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever, and raised concern about what he called a “clearly anti-Israel step.” He mentioned the transfer would have “serious consequences, legal and otherwise,” and Israel “will act aggressively against all boycott actions directed against its residents.”
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to remark instantly on the corporate’s choice. But he mentioned the US rejects the boycott motion against Israel, saying it “unfairly singles out” the nation.
In Monday’s announcement, Ben & Jerry’s mentioned it will cease promoting ice cream within the occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem. The firm, recognized for its social activism, mentioned such gross sales have been “inconsistent with our values.”
The statement was one of the strongest rebukes by a high-profile company of Israel’s settlement policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which it has controlled for more than a half-century after capturing them in the 1967 Mideast war.
The Palestinians, with broad international support, claim both areas as parts of a future independent state. Israeli settlements, now home to some 700,000 Israelis, are widely seen as illegal and obstacles to peace.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem after the 1967 war and considers the entire city its undivided capital, though the annexation is not internationally recognized. It says the West Bank is disputed territory and says its final status should be resolved in negotiations. The international community, however, widely considers both areas to be occupied territory.
In its statement, Ben & Jerry’s said it had informed its longtime Israeli partner that it will not renew its license agreement when it expires at the end of 2022.
While noting it would not serve Israeli-occupied areas, it said it would continue to provide ice cream in Israel “by means of a unique association.” A quantity of corporations, most notably beverage firm SodaStream, have closed factories within the occupied West Bank however few have focused Israeli customers residing there.
It stays unclear how Ben & Jerry’s plans to do this. Israeli grocery store chains, a main distribution channel for the cleverly named flavors of ice cream, function within the settlements, and beneath Israeli regulation, folks or corporations that boycott the settlements may be sued.
On the worldwide stage, Israel doesn’t differentiate between settlements and the remainder of the nation. When house-rental firm Airbnb introduced in 2018 that it will not record properties in West Bank settlements, Israel harshly condemned the transfer as half of a broader Palestinian-led boycott motion against Israel.
Israel’s strategic affairs minister on the time, Gilad Erdan, inspired Israelis harmed by the choice to sue Airbnb. Several months later, after continued Israeli criticism and a US federal lawsuit filed by Israeli Americans, the corporate reversed course.
Erdan, now Israel’s ambassador to the US, mentioned on Tuesday that he had despatched a letter to the governors of 35 states which have handed legal guidelines against anti-Israel boycott exercise.
“Rapid and determined action must be taken to counter such discriminatory and antisemitic actions,” he wrote. “We should stand united and ship an unequivocal message that this is not going to be tolerated.”
But even some of Israel’s supporters mentioned the corporate was on strong floor.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J-Street, mentioned it was not antisemitism to differentiate between Israel and settlements constructed on occupied territory.
“Instead of demonizing and attacking companies and individuals for making principled decisions,” he said, “these leaders would make a higher contribution to the combat against antisemitism by serving to to convey the unjust and dangerous occupation to a peaceable finish.”
The dispute has turned the Israeli ice cream market into the newest entrance in Israel’s lengthy-working battle against the BDS motion, a Palestinian-led grassroots marketing campaign that promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli companies, cultural establishments and universities.
BDS organizers say they’re protesting what they name Israeli oppression of Palestinians in a marketing campaign modeled on the anti-apartheid motion in South Africa. Its nonviolent message has resonated with audiences around the globe, together with on many US school campuses.
But Israel says the motion has a deeper agenda aimed toward delegitimizing and destroying the nation.
Omar Barghouti, a BDS co-founder, mentioned the motion had been urging Ben & Jerry’s to pull out of Israel for years. He known as its choice “quite significant.”
“It exhibits you can not have enterprise with an apartheid state with out being complicit,” he mentioned. “We expect more socially responsible companies to follow suit, perhaps less publicly.
Unilever, which acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, appeared Tuesday to distance itself from the ice cream maker. In a statement, Unilever noted that under the purchase agreement, it recognized Ben & Jerry’s independence and right “to take selections about its social mission.”
“We remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades,” it said.
Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at George Mason University’s Scalia Law School, said that despite such assurances, the global company could be vulnerable to US state laws banning anti-Israel boycott activity.
Kontorovich, who consulted with lawmakers in some states that adopted the laws, said they treat anti-Israel boycotts as a form of discrimination. Violating these laws, he said, could make both Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever ineligible for state contracts or prompt states to drop Unilever shares from large pension funds.
“They may even see that mixing ice cream and anti-Israel politics will not be the most effective concept,” he mentioned.
The battle comes against the backdrop of shifting US attitudes towards Israel. Where Israel as soon as loved strong bipartisan help within the US, the nation has changed into a divisive problem in recent times, with Republicans strongly supporting it and Democrats, particularly younger liberal voters, more and more supporting the Palestinians.
Several elements have fueled this pattern, together with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s shut alliance with former US President Donald Trump.
Michael Oren, who served as Netanyahu’s ambassador to the US, mentioned the developments have been worrisome for Israel.
While he mentioned the Ben & Jerry’s choice posed no fast risk to Israel’s sturdy financial system, he mentioned the boycott motion may contribute to a “steady erosion of Israel’s legitimacy.”
“Our enemies know they can’t destroy us with all these missiles,” he informed reporters. “They can destroy us economically through sanctions and boycotts. And that’s where BDS poses a long-term threat.”



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