Israel’s fury after Ben & Jerry’s vows to stop selling in West Bank

Jerusalem: Israel’s Prime Minister vowed to “act aggressively” against the decision by Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling its ice-cream in Israeli-occupied territories, as the country’s ambassador to the US urged dozens of state governors to punish the company under anti-boycott laws.

The strong reaction reflected concerns in Israel that the ice-cream maker’s decision could lead other companies to follow suit. It also appeared to set the stage for a protracted public relations and legal battle.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said he had spoken with Alan Jope, chief executive of Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever, and raised concerns about what he called a “clearly anti-Israel step”. He said the move would have “serious consequences, legal and otherwise” and Israel would “act aggressively against all boycott actions directed against its citizens”.

In Monday’s announcement, Ben & Jerry’s said it would stop selling ice-cream in the occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem. The American company, known for its social activism, said such sales were “inconsistent with our values”.

The statement was one of the strongest rebukes by a high-profile company of Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel has controlled the areas for more than a half-century after capturing them in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Palestinians, with broad international support, claim both areas as parts of a future independent state. Israeli settlements, now home to some 700,000 Israelis, are widely seen as illegal and obstacles to peace.

Read the article by Josef Federman in The Sydney Morning Herald.