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Ben & Jerry’s ice cream ban in West Bank becomes hot topic in Israel

Ice cream has become a hot topic in Israel.

Israeli officials have criticized Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling ice cream in Israel’s occupied Palestinian territory, accusing him of portraying himself as anti-Israel.

“The boycott of Israel (…) reflects a total loss of path,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid called the decision a “shameful surrender to anti-Semitism”. A TikTok from the Minister of the Economy, Orna Barbivay, throwing a box of Ben & Jerry’s in the trash has been shared online.

A refrigerator bearing the Ben & Jerry’s logo was seen at a food store in the Jewish settlement of Efrat on Tuesday. The decision to stop doing business in the occupied Palestinian territory was adopted by the BDS movement, which described it as a “decisive step towards ending the company’s complicity in the Israeli occupation.”Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

More than symbolic words and gestures, Israel is also already showing its diplomatic muscles against this decision. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, tweeted that he had written to 35 governors of US states with anti-boycott of Israel legislation, calling on them to impose sanctions on Ben & Jerry’s.

“We take this decision very harshly because it is about the de facto adoption of anti-Semitic practices and the advancement of the delegitimization of the Jewish state and the dehumanization of the Jewish people,” he wrote in the letter, according to a photo he posted on Twitter.

Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Israel takes a strong stand against individuals or organizations seen to support the pro-Palestinian BDS movement, which supports boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israeli institutions and businesses.

The movement says it aims to put pressure on Israel economically and politically to comply with international law and work to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

But Israeli officials say the movement is anti-Semitic and seeks to delegitimize or even destroy the country. Under Israeli law, supporters of the movement can be refused entry into Israel.

Ben & Jerry’s did not say in his statement that he supported BDS, but his move was widely viewed by Israeli observers and some Jewish groups as a victory for the movement.

This is not the first time that a company has tried to cease operations in the occupied territories. In 2018, Airbnb announced it would stop advertising properties in Israeli settlements. Several months later, after being severely criticized by Israel and a federal lawsuit brought by American Israelis who owned property in the settlements, the company reversed its decision.

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It is still unclear whether Israeli pressure will produce the same result with Ben & Jerry’s.

Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran of Palestinian politics, called Erdan’s decision to write to 35 US governors “Israeli arrogance.”

“Chutzpah + hasbara + law + impunity,” she tweeted.

That Israeli lawmakers have called Ben & Jerry’s move a boycott of Israel itself will be welcomed by Jewish settlers living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

These territories were captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East War.

Israel treats the two areas separately, seeing East Jerusalem as part of its capital and the West Bank as contested territory whose fate should be resolved through negotiations. Most of the international community, however, considers both areas to be occupied territories and the settlements there to be illegal under international law.

Nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers now live in the two regions – around 440,000 in the occupied West Bank and 220,000 in East Jerusalem, according to Peace Now, an Israeli organization campaigning for an independent Palestinian state.

Ben & Jerry’s decision to cease doing business in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was adopted by the BDS movement, which described it as a “decisive step towards ending the company’s complicity in the Israeli occupation. and violations of Palestinian rights ”.

Not all Israeli lawmakers condemned the decision.

Aida Touma-Sliman, an Israeli MP from the Joint List of Arab Parties, wrote on Twitter that Ben & Jerry’s decision was “just and moral” and that the occupied Palestinian territories are not part of Israel.

Joint List chief Ayman Odeh tweeted a photo of himself digging in a Ben & Jerry’s tub with the caption: “The diet has been fine so far.”

Rachel Elbaum and Lina dandees contributed.

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