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Israel PM threatens Unilever CEO with ‘severe consequences’ over Ben & Jerry’s boycott

27th Aug 2021
Israel PM threatens Unilever CEO with ‘severe consequences’ over Ben & Jerry’s boycott

Ben & Jerry’s Instagram announcement

Elham Asaad Buaras

Israel has threatened consumer goods giant Unilever with “severe consequences” a day after its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s announced its decision to abide by international law and stop selling ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories and urged US states to invoke anti-boycott laws.

Ben & Jerry’s announced, on July 19, it would no longer sell its ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as it was “inconsistent with its values”. Unilever reiterated the decision in a separate statement.

Most countries consider Israeli settlements on Palestinian land to be illegal. Israel disputes this.

According to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office, Bennett threatened Unilever CEO Alan Jope, his government would move “aggressively against any boycott measure targeting civilians.”

Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000 in a deal that allows it to operate with more autonomy than other subsidiaries, including giving legal powers to an independent board to decide over its social mission, brand integrity and policies.

Unilever refused to confirm to The Muslim News the phone call between Bennett and Jope but reiterated its statement that the company remains “fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades.”

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price declined to respond to Ben & Jerry’s decision, calling it “the actions of a private company.” But he reiterated the Biden administration’s opposition to the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to isolate Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians. “We firmly reject the BDS movement, which unfairly singles out Israel,” Price told a regular press briefing.

The BDS movement, which has long sought to end international support for Israel, hailed the decision as a “decisive step towards ending the company’s complicity in Israel’s occupation and violations of Palestinian rights.”

“We warmly welcome their decision but call on Ben & Jerry’s to end all operations in apartheid Israel,” the movement said.

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