ben & jerry are going to hell :-)

Israel gets skewered after claiming Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream boycott is ‘new form of terrorism’
RT.com, Jul 22 2021

Israel’s president has been targeted by a barrage of social media snark after he bravely compared Ben & Jerry’s decision, to stop selling its ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories, to terrorism. The Vermont-based ice cream brand, which has developed a reputation over the years as a champion of progressive causes, announced earlier this week that it would be “inconsistent” with its values to sell its ice cream in Gaza and the West Bank. The boycott was prompted by “concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners,” the left-leaning ice cream maker explained. The decision sparked both applause and condemnation but, on Wednesday, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog issued a uniquely extreme analysis of the move. Herzog said, as quoted by Haaretz:

The boycott of Israel is a new sort of terrorism, economic terrorism. Terrorism tries to harm the citizens of Israel and the economy of Israel. We must oppose this boycott and terrorism in any form.

But his geopolitical assessment of the ice cream blockade received poor reviews on social media, with many comments openly mocking the president’s remarks. One Twitter user quipped:

Terrorism is when I can’t buy Ben and Jerries to eat while I bulldoze Palestinian homes.

Another observer joked that Israel might be planning on carrying out missile strikes against Ben & Jerry’s Vermont hometown.

Others fired up photoshop to show their disdain for Herzog’s claim.

Those who took a more serious approach to the Israeli leader’s comments argued that comparing the boycott to any form of terrorism showed “bad faith” on the part of Tel Aviv.

The pile-on wasn’t unanimous, however. One reply accused media outlets of twisting Herzog’s words by not stressing that he specifically pointed to Ben & Jerry’s alleged “economic” terrorism. Israel’s president isn’t alone in using such strong language to push back against the ice cream company. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett claimed that Ben & Jerry’s had rebranded as an “anti-Semitic ice cream.” Ben & Jerry’s, which is owned by consumer goods giant Unilever, explained that it would remain in Israel, and would only stop sales in areas considered occupied by that country.

Israel melts down over Ben & Jerry’s
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Jul 21 2021

I spoke to TRT World about the decision by Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling its ice cream in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israel is enraged and threatening to punish the frozen treats maker, a reaction I told TRT World is totally unhinged. Palestine’s BDS movement celebrated a win that came after years of grassroots campaigning. The BDS National Committee added:

Israel has no good arguments to defend its illegal colonization of occupied Palestinian land. So it lazily smears virtually anyone who criticizes or takes action to document or counter its crimes and abuses as anti-Jewish bigots. Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid declared:

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke to Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, the multinational that owns Ben & Jerry’s, warning him of “severe consequences.” Bennett added:

On Tuesday, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the US, tweeted:

Anti-BDS laws are widely viewed as unconstitutional attempts to force pro-Israel political opinions on US citizens and entities. Federal courts in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona and Georgia have already struck down key anti-BDS provisions that violate First Amendment protections for freedom of speech and political opinion. Israel has previously taken credit for helping get many of these unconstitutional laws passed in the first place. Ben & Jerry’s previously angered Israel and its lobby in the late 1990s, when under pressure from campaigners it ended use of spring water pillaged from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, part of Syria. Some pro-Israel activists are also calling on Jewish religious bodies around the world to withdraw kosher certification from Ben & Jerry’s products. One rabbinical organization in Australia has reportedly already done so. Similar to halal certification for Muslims, a kosher certification given by a qualified rabbinical agency attests that a food item has been made according to Jewish religious standards. Politicizing such certifications in the service of Israel is another reprehensible attempt to conflate appropriate actions to counter Israel’s violations of international law with anti-Jewish bigotry. This scorched earth tactic by pro-Israel activists is especially reckless, given that anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim bigots in several countries already spread lies and conspiracy theories about kosher and halal certifications to advance racist, far-right agendas.

Founded at a gas station in Vermont in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Ben & Jerry’s has fostered a reputation as a socially conscious company. It was fully acquired by Unilever in 2000, but retains an independent board of directors that the ice cream maker says is “empowered to protect and defend Ben & Jerry’s brand equity and integrity.” The decision to end sales in Israeli settlements has sparked a public battle between Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s management on the one hand, and the independent board on the other. On Monday, Ben & Jerry’s released a statement announcing:

We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the occupied Palestinian territory. We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.

The statement’s final sentence asserts that although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in occupied Palestinian territories, “we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement,” details of which would be announced later. Unilever issued a separate statement affirming:

We recognize the right of the brand and its independent board to take decisions about its social mission. We also welcome the fact that Ben & Jerry’s will stay in Israel. We remain fully committed to our presence in Israel.

The independent board is rejecting this. The statement released by Ben & Jerry’s management “does not reflect the position of the independent board, nor was it approved by the independent board,” according to a separate statement from the board. The board says the statement it approved differs from the one actually issued by Ben & Jerry’s. It does not include any commitment to “stay in Israel.” Unilever and the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s took a position and published a statement on a matter directly related to the ice cream maker’s “social mission and brand integrity” without its approval, the board said. This put the companies “in violation of the spirit and the letter” of the agreement made when Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry’s, the board added. Board chair Anuradha Mittal did not respond to inquiries from The Electronic Intifada, but she told NBC News:

I am saddened by the deceit of it. I can’t stop thinking that this is what happens when you have a board with all women and people of color who have been pushing to do the right thing.

Notwithstanding these differences, Israel considers Ben & Jerry’s withdrawal even from its West Bank settlements as a major blow and a dangerous precedent. It comes amid a widening international consensus that companies have an obligation not to profit from or otherwise be complicit in Israel’s colonization of occupied territories and other abuses of Palestinian rights.

Recently, one of Norway’s biggest pension funds divested from 16 Israeli and international firms that profit from the settlements. This also comes amid growing recognition that Israel’s policies towards Palestinians, wherever they live, constitute the crime of apartheid. Israel undoubtedly fears that the ice cream maker from Vermont has set off a snowball effect that will encourage others to freeze it out as well.

How Israel slowly suffocates Gaza
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Jul 21 2021

Palestinians demand an end to the siege on Gaza in a protest in front of the rubble of al-Jalaa tower,
which had housed offices of the AP and Al Jazeera before it was bombed by Israel in May.
Photo: Salam Yasser/APA

As the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha begins, Gaza is still reeling from Israel’s 11-day bombing campaign in May. The Israeli assault started just before the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, and ended with the killing of at least 245 Palestinians in Gaza, including 63 children. The bombs may have stopped dropping. But the devastation continues. Palestinians in the coastal enclave have been left to rebuild and recover from widespread destruction while living under a 14-year Israeli blockade that appears to hamper this process on certain political negotiations and outcomes. The Times of Israel reported:

Only food, medical supplies, fuel, animal fodder and ‘raw materials for critical industries’ have been allowed into the territory.

Israeli occupation authorities have used their “absolute control” over maritime, aerospace and land entry and exit points “to achieve political goals and objectives,” according to the Gaza-based rights group Al-Mezan. Israeli politicians have suggested that they intend to reduce the amount of cash they allow into the Strip, including from Qatar. Israel’s public security minister Omer Barlev reportedly suggested that Qatari aid “won’t enter as dollars in suitcases that go straight to Hamas” but rather that “the mechanism will largely operate through the UN, and will enter as food vouchers or humanitarian assistance, not cash.” A JPost editorial said Israel had been “seeking to condition aid” on the release of two Israelis held by Hamas, as well as the bodies of two others. On Jul 14, Israeli authorities allowed the entry of commercial goods, including clothes, for the first time since its assault, according to SAFA:

This came after COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, the wards of the Gaza ghetto, announced the decision to ease imports and exports into the Strip. COGAT boasted of extending the permitted fishing area from nine to twelve nautical miles off of Gaza’s coast, still way short of the 20 nautical miles stipulated by the Oslo accords of the 1990s. The post announcing the change on Jul 12 stated the decision was made “following the recent security calm” and after “acquiring political approval.” The entry and exit of goods at the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing would also be eased, COGAT added. The group said the providing of such services, which benefit civilians, is “conditional on maintaining security stability.” Israeli rights group Gisha said COGAT’s proposals are “nowhere near enough” to meet Gaza’s needs or “mitigate the harm” caused by the blockade. While Israel permitted the entry of medical equipment, fishing, school supplies, shoes and other items into Gaza, it is still barring thousands of materials, including construction equipment, raw materials and spare parts, Gisha said on Wednesday.

It can seem a foreign concept to many to even contemplate a “siege” or “blockade.” Some do not understand how exactly Israel’s policy makes “normal life” impossible for Palestinians in Gaza, even when it’s not bombing it. The siege amounts to a war crime, Al-Mezan has said, since it is collective punishment of two million Palestinians living in Gaza, about half of whom are children. Earlier this month, Gaza’s electricity distribution company reported that less than 55% of electricity needs were met. Electricity is available for an average of just 13 hours per day across Gaza this year, according to UN monitoring group OCHA. And this number assumes that all electricity lines from Israel are active, which Al-Mezan noted is rare. Many crucial services underpinning daily life are affected by electricity shortages, from waste treatment through water services to the health sector.

Israel has also been barring the import of almost all raw materials and equipment for reconstruction, with some minor exceptions like paper and detergents, Al-Mezan said. Israel’s bombing of residential neighborhoods in Gaza has completely destroyed the homes of 8,500 people, the group said. One in eight Palestinians in Gaza are unable to repair damages caused by bombings to their homes due to Israel’s refusal to allow reconstruction materials into the enclave. Gisha pointed to reports claiming that Israel is conditioning Gaza’s reconstruction efforts on certain political negotiations with Hamas. Textiles, furniture, farming and fishing are some of the major industries impacted by the ongoing shortage of materials, according to Gisha. Al-Mezan said:

Even acquiring a mattress is now difficult, because sponge factories cannot operate.

Gaza’s economy, already battered before Israel’s assault, has been further devastated by Israel’s latest aggression. Prices have risen in Gaza’s market as a result of severe restrictions, as have job losses. Gaza already had one of the world’s highest unemployment rates, around 50% even before Israel’s latest offensive. This number is expected to rise. Gaza is facing “unprecedented” levels of poverty, says Al-Mezan, and 68% of residents are food insecure. Around 70% of families in Gaza are receiving some form of assistance. During the assault, Israel also targeted 24 medical facilities in Gaza, according to a report by Al-Mezan. And starting the second day of the assault and for its duration, Israel’s military authorities refused to let any patient leave Gaza through the Erez checkpoint to receive treatment outside of the Strip. Al-Mezan said several people died as a result.

The Erez checkpoint is only one of two points of entry and exit from Gaza, and the only one between Gaza and Israel and the occupied West Bank. Israel has largely kept it closed since Mar 2020 under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic, barring some exceptions. The other is Egypt’s heavily secured Rafah crossing, which is Gaza’s only passage to the outside world not directly controlled by Israel, but which is only open to passengers, not goods or for commerce, when it is open. Egypt aids Israel in denying to Palestinians their freedom of movement in and out of Gaza. This is the status quo of Israel’s siege on Gaza, a nearly unliveable reality that Palestinians in the Strip return to after every round of Israeli bombing. Sometimes restrictions on imports and exports are tightened or loosened. Sometimes the permitted nautical miles off of the Gaza shore are extended or reduced. But so long as Israel’s siege on Gaza continues, any drip-feed changes will alleviate Palestinian suffering only in the very short term. Without any meaningful change to end the blockade, the violence of the status quo persists.

2 Comments

  1. Paul
    Posted July 22, 2021 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    Were Ben and Jerry’s offering to assist food aid into the Palestinian territories then I’d consider this to be more than just a stunt. I guess though there is still the fact that this has probably been decided with an eye on commercial outcomes, which doesn’t read well for Israel’s girlish protestations of innocence in the public eye.

  2. niqnaq
    Posted July 23, 2021 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    unilever’s shares are down 1% globally!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.