Can Israel criminalize Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the United States? | Resisting divestment and sanctions news

Can Israel criminalize Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the United States? | Resisting divestment and sanctions news


Ben Jerry Decide Palestinian rights advocates say that stopping the sale of ice cream in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory may be a critical moment in the campaign against Israeli apartheid.

The US-based ice cream maker is known for its creativity, thick flavors and radical social stance, but it has faced severe counterattacks from the Israeli government and global rabbis.

Will Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever resist the pressure and maintain their principled stand, or will they be forced to give in? As Palestinian militants urge American companies to boycott Israel, these issues will become a political and legal battle of concern.

“Ben and Jerry made a very brave decision and a risky one,” said James Zogby, director of the Arab American Institute in Washington, DC.

“It’s really important to focus on calculations. Companies don’t usually do things like this. This is a big deal,” Zogby told Al Jazeera.

But Unilever CEO Alan Qiaope on Thursday Alienate Ben & Jerry’s own decision told investors that “Unilever is still fully committed to our business in Israel.”

However, Qiaopu pointed out that when Unilever acquired the ice cream company in 2000, it agreed to allow Ben & Jerry’s and its independent board of directors to continue its social justice activities.

The Israeli government now threat Using controversial anti-boycott laws, pro-Israel advocates have won victories in more than 30 U.S. states to try to punish ice cream makers’ decisions.

If Israel fails to criminalize Ben & Jerry’s actions, this could set an important precedent, as the world increasingly sees Israel as an apartheid country, which was boycotted like South Africa in the 1980s.

“It became a political struggle,” Zogby said. “This will be a big test to see if Ben and Jerry’s can get away with it.”

Israel’s response

Ben Jerry Announce It made its decision on July 19, stating in a statement posted on its website that continued sales in the Occupied Palestinian Territory were “not in line with our values” and acknowledging that “our fans and trusted cooperation The worries that our partners share with us”.

Ben & Jerry’s stated that it intends to stay in Israel, but will not stay in settlements that are widely regarded as illegal under international law, despite Israel’s objections.

Of the Israeli government reaction soon. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called Unilever’s chief executive officer and warned of “serious consequences.” Bennett said Israel will “actively oppose any boycott.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweeted threatening to invoke US anti-boycott laws to take enforcement action against the ice cream maker.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, followed up on July 20, announcing that he had written to the governors of 35 U.S. states requesting action against Ben & Jerry’s and seeking to reverse the company’s decision through economic pressure.

Erdan said in the letter: “We take this decision very seriously because it actually adopted anti-Semitism and promoted the de-legalization of the Jewish state and the dehumanization of the Jews.”

Anti-BDS laws

In the United States, dozens of states and localities have passed so-called anti-BDS laws—a reference to the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The laws vary from state to state, but usually seek to authorize local governments to prohibit or cancel contracts with companies that support boycotts, sanctions, or divestments from Israel (such as Ben & Jerry’s).

Many of these anti-boycott laws were ruled by the courts as unconstitutional because they violated the right to freedom of speech protected by the US and state constitutions.

“It is disturbing that we have foreign officials here who are trying to get American lawmakers to suppress one of our country’s oldest constitutional rights in order to suppress the growing objections to Israeli violations of Palestinian rights,” said Amila, a lawyer for the organization. · Mattar (Amira Mattar) said. Palestine Legal, tracking anti-BDS legislation across the United States.

Matar told Al Jazeera: “As public surveillance takes action, Ben & Jerry’s decision shows that the company is listening, and when they take their stand, it will shake the Israeli lobby.”

“This is not surprising. Ben & Jerry’s is under tremendous pressure, and I believe there are calls for the removal of their support for Palestinian rights,” she said.

In 2019, Airbnb, an online accommodation service company, revoked its decision to delist properties in Israeli settlements under intense legal and political pressure from Israel and its supporters.

Biden opposes BDS, Congress splits

The official position of the U.S. government and the Biden administration is to oppose any boycott of Israel.

“We are firmly opposed to the BDS movement, which unfairly singled out Israel,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters this week.

In the U.S. Senate, senators from both parties reintroduced anti-BDS legislation that had not received sufficient support in the past.

“The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is the most destructive economic war movement facing the Jewish state of Israel today,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said in June.

The bill aims to resolve the issue of the court’s decision to repeal state laws by trying to give states the right to block commercial transactions with participants in the BDS movement. Courts in Texas, Maryland, Arkansas, and Georgia overturned anti-BDS state laws.

BDS is gaining momentum

Palestinian advocates say that Ben & Jerry’s actions make the global BDS movement more credible, and this issue will complicate Bennett’s upcoming visit to the United States in August.

“It is already clear that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid,” said Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian-American activist and lawyer.

She told Al Jazeera that a UN list of more than 100 companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank was “a warning to their complicity.”

On July 21, the Black Life Movement, the Palestinian Rights Movement in the United States and the Adalah Justice Project jointly issued a joint statement in support of Ben & Jerry’s decision.

Ahmed Abznaid, executive director of the Palestinian Rights Movement in the United States, said that Israel’s anti-BDS campaign against Ben & Jerry’s may “backfire”.

Abznaid told Al Jazeera: “Many activists are launching campaigns against different companies across the country, and they are taking notice.”

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