On July 19, 2021 Ben and Jerry’s released a statement that they would end their ice cream sales in Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) called this a “decisive step toward ending the company’s complicity in Israel occupation and violation of Palestinian rights.” However, Ben and Jerry’s “will stay in Israel through a different arrangement.” While we acknowledge the significance of Ben and Jerry’s decision, we must continue to hold companies accountable for their actions.
Historically, Ben and Jerry’s has supported progressive causes. This includes defunding the police and calling for the end of white supremacy within the United States. Ben and Jerry’s was never afraid of being vocal and public with their beliefs. However, when it came to speaking out against apartheid and occupation in Palestine, the company was silent. For a brand that took pride in social activism, their silence was deafening.
Since 2013, over 250 organizations and thousands of people have been calling for Ben and Jerry’s to end their product sales in Israeli settlements. It took over eight years and boycott from the public for Ben and Jerry’s to make this decision. They will stop sales within Occupied Palestinian Territories and not renew their Israeli license agreement. This is a positive step in the right direction and shows that Ben and Jerry’s has listened to the people.
The company’s decision has received mixed reactions. The prime minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett branded Ben and Jerry’s as “anti-Israeli ice cream.” Many Israeli politicians call for Ben and Jerry’s boycott, claiming the company will face repercussions for their decision. Additionally, Ben and Jerry’s patent company, Unilever, stated they are fully committed to staying in Israel. Even with this backlash, Ben and Jerry’s CEO, Alan Jope, is not backing down. Jope stated the decision to end sales in OPT is aligned with their values and involvement in social activism.
Ben and Jerry’s is just one example of companies that have profited off controversial business practices that violate human rights and contribute to poverty and oppression. It took over eight years for Ben and Jerry’s to take this small step. Change does not happen overnight, and it is critical to call out brands for their hypocrisy. When we hold companies accountable for their actions, we force them to be socially responsible with their brand.
We can celebrate small milestones with a brand as influential as Ben and Jerry’s. Their choice paves the way for more brands to follow their lead. However, we can’t ignore the ways brands, including Ben and Jerry’s, continue to support apartheid. Brands can no longer hide behind promises that allow them to keep their unethical practices. Social media has had a significant impact on brands changing their policies, including Ben and Jerry’s.
People have the power to create change and disrupt the status quo. As soon as we stop speaking out it is easier to fall back into an old routine. We owe it to the thousands of Palestinians whose lives are directly affected by apartheid to speak up. So please continue to post, share, and advocate for the people that need us most.