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Ben & Jerry’s to end sales in Occupied Palestine Territory

The decision comes after years of pressure from activists and listening to the concerns of ‘fans and trusted partners.’

In a brief statement, Ben & Jerry’s has announced that continuing the sale of its ice cream in occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem would be ‘inconsistent with [its] values.’

Though precise details have not yet been revealed, discussions to terminate the contract with its Israel-based factory are complete.

The conclusion to end licensing arrangements for the sale of Ben & Jerry’s in OPT (Occupied Palestine Territory) will be come into effect at the end of next year.

The response, as expected for this region with a history of complex political and social conflicts, has been mixed. We’ve covered the ongoing unrest in this area at Thred – get up to date here.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, called the decision ‘morally wrong’ on the basis that businesses boycotting Israel in this way reflects a ‘loss of bearings’ that ‘will not work and will be fought.’

PM Naftali shouldn’t fret so much. He (and the nation) won’t be totally without the sweet, sweet goods as Ben & Jerry’s will still distribute in mainland Israel through a different agreement, which hasn’t been fully disclosed yet.

It simply won’t sell product in OPT areas of Palestine, where Israel occupation is widely viewed as illegal.

Looking at it from a business perspective, operating in areas where land has been essentially stolen and rightfully settled Palestinians face daily oppression could allude to support for this behaviour.

For all the cynics out there, this is not a matter of virtue signalling from B&J. Advocating for social justice has been a core part of their brand philosophy from the outset.

Born out of Vermont – one of America’s most liberal states – by two school friends called (you guessed it) Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the brand has always had a reputation for being offbeat and progressive.

As the company unexpectedly grew in popularity, it became clear to the owners that there’s a ‘spiritual aspect to business, [we saw that] business has become the most powerful force in our society.’

It’s true, we know that brands have the power to really change things and part of that has to do with their international reach.

In the past, Ben & Jerry’s has campaigned for a myriad of important causes – including nature conservation, the environment, criminal justice reform, LGTBQ+ rights, and same sex marriage.

Jeff Furman, the former chairman who led Ben & Jerry’s for almost 40 years, described the company as a ‘social justice organisation that sells ice cream to be able to fuel its advocacy work.’

It has two separate teams for marketing and activism, which collaborate once a week. The activism team presents important issues and their strategy for tackling it, then the marketing team simply works to spread the word.

It’s a tag-team relationship that has less to do with finances and everything to do with using their global platform to promote positivity and fairness.

I can think of a few companies who could learn from the classic duo that is Ben & Jerry. You have to hand it to them, they really know how to make life a bit sweeter.

 

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