23 July 2021


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Ben & Jerry's Ending West Bank Ice Cream Sales


Ice cream is probably one of the least political things in all creation. Almost everyone likes it. Those who can't eat dairy try to find adequate substitutes. It can be any flavor at all from plain vanilla to rocky road to green tea. Yet, the moral purists in the world have managed to make ice cream in the West Bank a matter of international dispute. Ben & Jerry's brand is made under license in the region, and the US company will not renew it because the firm doesn't want to sell ice cream so long as Israeli policy is what it is. This will accomplish absolutely nothing positive. It is a moral tantrum and counter-productive.

On July 19, the company issued this statement. "We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry's ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.

"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.

"Although Ben & Jerry's will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready."

In other words, Israel gets to have Ben & Jerry's, but the people in the OPT will have to make due with something else. Yet it is the Israeli government that is causing most of the grief in the West Bank (not all but Tel Aviv is not innocent either). The settlements are the source of the problem, and the settlers won't get any ice cream, now.

However, the victims of the Israeli occupation, the everyday Palestinians, are also the victims of the corporate decision. Quite how this squares with Ben & Jerry's values is hard to say. Punishing victims so that one can punish the troublemakers (if that is indeed what the settlers are) is wrong.

The history of boycotts and sanctions is not one of great success. The myth that South African apartheid was ended by a global boycott of South African goods is just wrong. Cuban troops in Namibia convinced the South Africans that they didn't have enough soldiers to maintain the system. The Cuban embargo is 60 years old, and Cuba remains communist. The Russian government is sanctioned right, left and center but its criminal activities persist. Even the original target of the boycott, Charles Cunningham Boycott, did not have to change his ways because of the refusal of tenants to pay their rent. The trouble ended when the government changed the law.

The fact of the matter is that no one really gives a damn about buying Ben & Jerry's in Nazareth or Bethlehem. It just makes the corporate board look committed to . . . something. Never mind that Ben & Jerry's is owned by Unilever, hardly a bastion of progressive thinking.

If the company really wanted to influence things, the license would pass to a Palestinian entity for a shekel a year. Ice cream going to Israel proper would have to be made in the OPT by Palestinian. The profits would have to be spent on the infrastructure, education and legal needs of the Palestinian people.

That, of course, is nowhere near as morally gratifying as taking one's ice cream and going home.

© Copyright 2021 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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