Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop business relationships with the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is “a legitimate and necessary response, in line with its responsibility to respect international law and human rights”, Amnesty International said in a press release yesterday.
On 19 July, the US-based ice cream company stated that “it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the OPT”, adding that it would not be renewing the contract with its distributor in the occupied territory when it expires at the end of next year.
“In addition to the inherent illegality of the settlements themselves, the settlement enterprise is inextricably linked to gross and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians,” Amnesty said. “Given these circumstances, companies cannot do business in, or have value chains and business relationships with illegal settlements, without contributing to serious violations of both international humanitarian law and human rights law.”
“Settlement businesses depend on and benefit from Israel’s unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources. They also benefit from Israel’s discriminatory policies for planning and zoning, financial incentives, access to utilities, and infrastructure. Palestinian enterprises are disadvantaged through restrictions on movement, and administrative and legal constraints.”
“It is therefore right for Ben and Jerry’s to take the decision to withdraw from Israeli settlements within the OPT,” Amnesty said, addin: “Ben & Jerry’s should also commit to continue selling to Palestinian areas within the OPT.”
Ben & Jerry’s was criticised for being anti-Semetic and practising a “new form of terrorism” as a result of its decision, with it’s parent company Unilever seeking to assuage the concerns of several American Jewish groups saying it “does not support” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
“We have always recognized the right of the brand and its independent Board to take decisions in accordance with its social mission. On this decision, it was no different,” CEO Alan Jope wrote in a letter to several Jewish organisations following the announcement.
Following the backlash, Ben & Jerry’s founders stated that they are “proud Jews”, that Israel was one of their first overseas markets and that they are “supporters of the State of Israel.”