An Israeli works in the Ben & Jerry's ice-cream factory in the Be'er Tuvia Industrial Park, July 20, 2021. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov) (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)
Ben and Jerry's factory

After refusing to comply with demands from Vermont headquarters, Israeli franchise owner reports surge in solidarity sales.

By United With Israel Staff

The Israeli distributors of Ben & Jerry’s warned that the Vermont ice cream-maker’s decision to cease sales to Judea and Samaria will harm their Palestinian employees.

Hen Israeli, vice president of the Sagi Group, said his company employees 45 people, including 10 Palestinians. Its factory is located in the Mishor Adumim Industrial Park, adjacent to the Maale Adumim community outside of Jerusalem. The factory produces around two tons of ice cream every week which is distributed in Judea and Samaria.

“I market other products, but the ice cream for me is a significant portion. It should be understood that such a decision first and foremost harms the employees, less the company at large,” he said. Israeli went on to explain that his Palestinian employees wouldn’t be able to find comparable wages or working conditions in the Palestinian Authority.

The other Israeli franchise owner, Avi Zinger, produces the ice cream in a factory in the Beer Tuvia Industrial Park, between Ashdod and Kiryat Gat. He has manufactured and distributed the ice cream within Israel, and also in Judea and Samaria for some 30 years.

When Ben & Jerry’s demanded that Zinger stop distributing ice cream in Judea and Samaria, he told them he would not comply for moral and legal reasons. Israeli law prohibits boycotts of its citizens based on their location.

That prompted the Vermont headquarters to notify Zinger they would not renew his contract to use their brand when it expires next year.

Asked about Israelis boycotting Ben & Jerry’s, Manufacturers’ Association president Dr. Ron Tomer responded “Have you gone crazy? There is an Israeli manufacturer here who is going to lose his life’s work fighting against dictates from abroad that require him to discriminate against Israeli citizens from the territories, and you want to boycott him?”

“We must condemn everything that Ben & Jerry’s Global does, but strengthen the Israeli Ben & Jerry’s that fought for the right to sell the ice cream to all Israelis in the country; not to boycott it and cause its collapse. We must continue to buy ice cream, and thus support and strengthen the company and its employees.”

Indeed, Ben & Jerry’s Israel reported a surge in sales as Israelis showed solidarity.

“Since the morning hours, there has been a significant increase in the purchase of our ice creams — more than 21% from a normal day. Do not stop! We need to mobilize all necessary forces to put pressure on Unilever, the owners of Ben & Jerry’s Global, to turn the bowl upside down,” Ben & Jerry’s Israel said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We call on everyone to stand by us and the hundreds of Israeli workers who may be harmed by the global BDS pressures. We will continue to sell throughout Israel and to all Israelis.”

The rhetoric over the ice cream battle escalated when Israeli President Isaac Herzog called the boycott, “a new kind of terrorism.”

“The boycott against Israel is a new type of terrorism — economic terrorism. Terrorism that seeks to harm Israeli citizens and the Israeli economy. We must oppose this boycott and terrorism of any kind,” Herzog said on Wednesday.

“The BDS campaign does not pursue peace and seeks to undermine the very existence of the State of Israel. It is aiming its arrows at the Israeli economy,” he continued.

The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry blasted Herzog, saying in a statement, “the occupation is terrorism itself. It is the worst kind of terrorism.”

Reports say that the Israeli ice cream market is worth roughly NIS 2 billion ($611 million) a year. Officials at Israel’s two largest ice cream makers, Osem and Strauss, have refrained from commenting.

Outside Israel, many Jewish stores have begun removing Ben & Jerry’s products from shelves. In Australia, the Sydney-based Kashrut Authority removed Ben & Jerry’s from its list of approved products. The move was more symbolic, as the ice cream is actually certified by the US-based Kof-K.

Ben & Jerry’s is owned by Unilever, a London-based international conglomerate. It now faces legal scrutiny, as more than 30 US states have anti-BDS legislation.

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