British kosher retailers are freezing out Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after the American food giant decided to stop selling its products in the West Bank.
The Vermont-based firm issued a statement this week that it would cease retailing in Israeli settlements in “Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)”, but it would remain in Israel – albeit “through a different arrangement”.
Hendon retailer Tapuach has said the store is “considering” its position on the matter, while Kosher City in Manchester is going a step further, announcing it intends to return any freezers on its premises branded with the ice cream maker’s logo. Its manager Menachem Leitner said: “The freezers are being collected as soon as possible. It is very wrong what they [Ben & Jerry’s] is doing.”
In a full statement published on Monday, Ben & Jerry’s said: “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognise the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.
“We have a longstanding partnership with our licencee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region.
“We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licencee that we will not renew the licence agreement when it expires at the end of next year.
Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.”
Ben & Jerry’s Israel distributor condemned the decision, calling it “entirely unacceptable”.
It added: “Ben & Jerry’s international decided not to renew their agreement with us in a year and a half after we refused their demand to stop distribution in Israel. We urge the Israeli government and consumers — don’t let them boycott Israel. Keep ice cream out of politics.”
Ben & Jerry’s West Bank boycott was condemned by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid who called it a “disgraceful capitulation”, while Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described the brand as “anti-Israel ice cream”.
Lapid added: “This decision is an endorsement of BDS, to all that is evil in the anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish discourse.
“We won’t be silent. Over 30 states in the United States have passed anti-BDS legislation in recent years. I plan on asking each of them to enforce these laws against Ben & Jerry’s. So they won’t treat us in such ways.”
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, tweeted: “Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy.”
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Kosher supermarkets in America said they will also boycott the brand while in Australia the kashrut authority KA has delisted the ice cream, which operates globally as a fully owned subsidiary of Unilever. Glatt Express Supermarket in New Jersey and Aron’s Kissena Farms in New York are among the leading kosher companies to drop the brand in the United States. “We will no longer sell any Ben & Jerry products, effective immediately,” Glatt Express Supermarket said.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, childhood friends from New York, opened their first ice cream scoop shop in a renovated fuel station in Burlington, Vermont, in 1978. Ben & Jerry’s owners are both Jewish and have long sided with so-called progressive causes in the US.
In 2018 they received criticism for promoting an event called The Women’s March and Linda Sarsour – a Women’s March board member – who is also a BDS supporter who once tweeted “Nothing is creepier than Zionism.”
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