EJJP has written to Unilever PLC in support of Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling is ice cream in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
On 19 July 2021, Ben & Jerry’s International announced it would stop selling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Their Israeli producer has refused to comply, so Ben & Jerry’s intends to contract with another producer in18 months when the current production contract ends. Sales are scheduled to stop then.
However, Ben & Jerry’s is wholly owned by Unilever. The Israeli government has started lobbying Unilever to reverse Ben & Jerry’s decision. Israeli leaders immediately started loudly accusing Ben & Jerry’s of antisemitism, double standards, and much else.
Although many companies, some very big, have stopped doing business in the settlements, Ben & Jerry’s is the first widely known, international consumer brand, that has taken this step. As long as Unilever doesn’t stop them, it could have a big impact on the public in a lot of countries. EJJP will keep working on Unilever as long as their position is in doubt.
EJJP letter to Unilever
Alan Jope, Chief Executive Officer 6 September 2021
c.c. Ritva Sotamaa, Chief Legal Officer and Group Secretary
Dear Mr Jope,
We are the federation of 10 national Jewish groups throughout Europe which support Palestinian rights and oppose the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. We are writing to support Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Ben and Jerry’s has refusedto allow its good name to lend an aura of normalityto the settlements, the occupation, and the apartheid-like system that Israel has created in the West Bank.
We are sure the Israeli government has told you that East Jerusalem is part of Israel and that the West Bank is “disputed territory”, not “occupied territory”. Then it will have said that, consequently, the Fourth Geneva Convention is not applicable and the settlements are not illegal. That has been Israel’sself-serving version of relevant international law since 1967.
However, as Ms. Sotamaa will certainly have told you, Israel is not the arbiter of international law. That function is performed by the United Nations Security Council and the International Court of Justice. The Security Council has been clear since 1967 that the territories are not part of Israel’s sovereign territory and are therefore occupied, that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies, and that all the settlements are illegal under international law. All countries have supported this position ever since, except for Israel itself and the US under President Donald Trump.
The Court confirmed the position in its Advisory Decision “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, in 2004. Security Council Resolution 2334, passed unanimously except for the US abstention, comprehensively reiterated it in December 2016. In addition to the settlements being illegal, we would argue that the occupation has itself become illegal because of its duration and Israel’s obvious intent to keep large parts of the occupied territory.
Ben and Jerry’s is not alone in deciding not to do business with the settlements. Since 2011, 68 companies, 91 municipalities, public bodies or national governments and 33 churches have stopped doing business with settlements or with other companies that do business with settlements, or have divested from companies that do business with settlements. There have also been two Court rulings that products from settlements must be labeled as such because the settlements are not part of Israel.
The symbolism of Ben and Jerry’s decision will encourage more companies to follow suit, which would send a message to Israel that it cannot forever act as if it is above the law. Unilever will enhance its reputation as a socially responsible company if it supports Ben & Jerry’s decision, and even more so by following with all its other products.
Dror Feiler, Chair of EJJP, Judar for Israelisk-Palestinsk Fred (Stockholm).
Arthur Goodman, Diplomatic and Parliamentary Officer, JFJFP (London)