Ben & Jerry’s decision to longer sell their products in occupied Palestinian territory is a form of terrorism.
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On July 18, 2021, popular ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s announced on their website and on social media that they will no longer be selling their products in the “occupied Palestinian territory” (OPT). According to their official statement, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will still be available in Israel through “a different arrangement.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog called the decision “a form of terrorism.”
Social media users discussed the decision.
Although Ben & Jerry’s is a subsidiary of Unilever, a multinational corporate conglomerate, it has more independence than most other brands in similar arrangements due to its divergent business relationship with its parent company. This relationship has given the independent board of Ben & Jerry’s the freedom to actively pursue the company’s self-proclaimed progressive values. The company said that their commitment to social justice and pressure from activists directly influenced their decision concerning Israel.
However, this latest move has put the ice cream company into conflict with Unilever. In a response statement, Unilever announced that they "remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades."
The response garnered by Ben & Jerry’s statement shows that the Palestinian crisis continues to be one of the most highly contested geopolitical topics in today’s political climate. Tensions over OPT have continued to rise through escalations in violence, and several human rights organizations have harshly criticized Israel for what some describe as violations of international law.
Prime Minister of Israel Naftali Bennett announced that Ben & Jerry’s is now the “anti-Israel ice cream” and that he views the boycott “with utmost gravity.” Bennett further warned of “severe consequences, including legal” for any company boycotting Israel. The specifics of those consequences have yet to be revealed.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog said that Ben & Jerry's "boycott of Israel is a new sort of terrorism, economic terrorism.”
Economic terrorism is defined by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy as entailing “varied, coordinated and sophisticated or massive destabilizing actions in order to disrupt the economic and financial stability of a state, a group of states or a society (such as market oriented western societies or economies) or a trading exchange for ideological, monetary or religious motives. These actions, if undertaken, may be violent or not. They could have either immediate effects or carry psychological effects which in turn have economic consequences.”
Although some may consider ice cream to be important for their psychological health, the removal of one brand of ice cream can hardly be constituted as economic terrorism.