Israel Reportedly Launches 'Maximum Pressure' Campaign Against Ice Cream Firm Over West Bank Stance
© REUTERS / RONEN ZVULUNTubs of ice-cream are seen as a labourer works at Ben & Jerry's factory in Be'er Tuvia, Israel July 20, 2021
© REUTERS / RONEN ZVULUN
Earlier in the month, US ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's, owned by Unilever, declared that it would stop selling its products in the West Bank, deeming the region "occupied Palestinian territory".
The Israeli government assembled a task force to implement a "maximum pressure" campaign against the Ben & Jerry's ice cream company, along with its parent firm, Unilever, for its move to halt sales of its products in the West Bank, Axios reported on Tuesday, citing Israeli official sources and a classified Foreign Ministry cable.
“We need to make use of the 18 months that are left until the decision comes into force and try to change it. We want to create long-term pressure on Unilever and Ben & Jerry's by consumers, politicians, and in the press and social media in order to lead to a dialogue with the companies," the cable said, according to Axios.
The cable also reportedly claimed that the ice-cream company "caved and cooperated with the BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] movement" which it suggested was "motivated by antisemitism." BDS is a pro-Palestinian movement to initiate economic sanctions and pressure against Israel as a means to end what the group characterizes as the apartheid-like stance of Tel Aviv in "Occupied Palestinian Territory".
The decision to stop sales in the West Bank was dubbed in the memo as "hypocritical", as the group suggests that the ice cream maker "goes against the values of corporate responsibility and smells like extreme cancel culture."
In a statement issued earlier in July, Ben & Jerry's stated that it was "inconsistent" with their corporate values to sell their products in the West Bank, dubbing the region "Occupied Palestinian Territory". The company said it will not resume a license agreement with manufacturers in the region when it expires next year, but pointed out that the ice cream products will remain available for purchase and consumption within Israel.
The move raised some eyebrows in Israel, with the country's president, Isaac Herzog, calling the company's decision a "new form of terrorism", and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett saying that it was "morally wrong".
Tel Aviv moved to demand that the US take action, with the Israeli Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, sending a letter to governors in 35 American states, calling for legislators to punish the ice cream firm through legal and economic means.
Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry's, stated that it remains "fully committed" to maintaining its business dealings in Israel, even in light of its wholly-owned subsidiary's decision regarding the "Occupied Palestinian Territory".
© AFP 2021 / HAZEM BADERIsraeli soldiers stand by as excavators demolish a Palestinian house (still under construction) located within the area C (where Israel retains full control over planning and construction) southeast of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on March 8, 2021.
Israeli soldiers stand by as excavators demolish a Palestinian house (still under construction) located within the area C (where Israel retains full control over planning and construction) southeast of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on March 8, 2021.
The West Bank is a territory that lies, according to the name, on the west bank of the River Jordan, and is surrounded by Israel on the north, south, and west. Its status remains unresolved, as there are many Israeli settlements on the territory, but it is de facto controlled by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). The majority of people living on the territory are Palestinians, with Jewish settlements reportedly occupying some 2% of the West Bank.