Israel has launched what has been described as a maximum pressure campaign against Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever, after the iconic ice cream brand announced it would halt sales in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israel has asked 35 U.S. governors to enforce state laws which make it a crime to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS.
Last week, the head of the New York State Common Retirement Fund wrote to Unilever saying it was examining whether Ben & Jerry’s had violated state policy on Israeli boycotts. Meanwhile, Brad Lander, the Democratic nominee for New York City comptroller, criticized the state’s position, saying, “Actions that erase the distinction between Israel and its settlements in occupied territory are effectively endorsing annexation and today’s unjust one-state status quo.”
A number of Jewish groups, including J Street, the New Israel Fund and Americans for Peace Now — all of whom oppose BDS — have defended Ben & Jerry’s decision and rejected accusations that the company’s decision was antisemitic.
Meanwhile, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, who no longer have operational control of the company, have defended the company’s decision. Writing in The New York Times, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield describe themselves as proud Jews and supporters of the state of Israel. They write, “We believe this act can and should be seen as advancing the concepts of justice and human rights, core tenets of Judaism.”