Photo Credit: David Shai / Wikimedia
Ben & Jerry's truck, Israel

There was a plethora of responses in Israel and abroad on Monday night to the decision by Ben & Jerry’s to bar sale of its ice cream in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” assumed to be a reference to Judea and Samaria, home to more than half a million Jewish residents.

Ben & Jerry’s Joins BDS Boycott of Israel

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Statements were issued on social media and in other venues by the prime minister, the foreign minister, an MK and the opposition leader, all labeling the decision for what it is: a move to join the international BDS (boycott, divest & sanctions) economic war on Israel.

Perhaps the briefest, and most succinct response came in a tweet from Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who wrote simply, “Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement, “There are many ice cream brands, but only one Jewish State.

“Ben & Jerry’s has decided to label itself as the anti-Israel ice cream,” Bennett said.

“This decision is morally wrong, and I believe that it will become clear that it is also commercially wrong as well.

“The boycott against Israel – a democracy surrounded by islands of terrorism – reflects a total loss of way.

The boycott does not work and will not work, and we will fight it with full force,” Bennett said.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid warned the company that the majority of states in the United States have anti-BDS laws, and that he intends to contact each one.

“Ben & Jerry’s decision is a shameful surrender to antisemitism, to BDS, to all that is evil in the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish discourse, Lapid said. “We will not be silent in facing them.

“More than thirty states in the US have anti-BDS submission laws passed in recent years,” Lapid reminded. “I am going to go one by one and demand that they enforce these anti-Ben & Jerry’s laws because they will not treat us in this way without encountering a response.”

Former Knesset member Omer Yankelevich also responded in a tweet, writing, “Settlement in Judea and Samaria is much more solid than ice cream and we will certainly not sacrifice our national dignity and heritage because of Ben & Jerry’s.

“Thousands of years before them our ancestor Abraham settled in the Land, and we will remain there for thousands of years after their ice cream melts,” Yankelevich wrote.

“Ben & Jerry’s decision is a poor and wrong decision,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a formal statement.

“The company’s decision constitutes a surrender to ongoing and aggressive pressure from extreme anti-Israel groups. The company is voluntarily cooperating with economic terrorism led by the BDS movement; an anti-Israeli movement with antisemitic undertones.

“The decision is immoral and discriminatory, as it singles out Israel, harms both Israelis and Palestinians and encourages extremist groups who use bullying tactics.

“Not only does the decision not promote peace or a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it strengthens those who oppose reconciliation between the two nations and who call for the destruction of the State of Israel.

Unilever’s announcement cannot hide the fact that it decided to allow B&J, a company it owns, to immorally boycott Israel. it is turning a blind eye to an injustice, when its statement relies on contractual clauses, rather than express an unequivocal moral stance against the BDS movement.

“We call on Ben & Jerry’s to withdraw its wrong decision. We are confident that this wrong decision will resonate among Israel’s many friends worldwide,” the ministry statement said.

US Jewry Starting to Respond
Even in the United States, seven hours behind Israel, the news is filtering down about the company’s decision to join the BDS boycott.

Glatt Express Supermarket, a one-stop supermarket shopping place in Teaneck, New Jersey, was the first to step up, writing in a Facebook post, “Due to the recent actions by Ben & Jerry’s, Glatt Express will no longer be carrying Ben and Jerry’s products. Am Yisroel Chai.”

Responses from locals were immediate. “So proud of you for that! I will make sure to shop by you more often!” wrote one.

“We never asked to make food political, but they did,” wrote another. “Thank you for taking a stand!”

“Israel has the best dairy products I’ve ever tasted. Ben and Jerry’s doesn’t hold a candle to Israeli ice cream. No one needs them!” wrote a third.

“Thank you Glatt Express” wrote one user after another. “Bravo! Thanks for standing up to hate!”

Ben & Jerry’s Israel, frantic at the building momentum towards a boycott of the company in Israel, responded to the foreign minister’s tweet with an appeal not to destroy the Israeli factory in the process of fighting the BDS campaign emanating from the US company.

“We continue to sell all over Israel!” the Israeli licensee said. “We do not accept the demand of Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s Global – so they do not want to extend our franchise for another year and a half. The Israeli consumer must not punish the Israeli factory, which is independent and employs hundreds of people in the south of the country,” the Israeli company wrote.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.