Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream in a grocery-store freezer. Credit: Ho Su A Bi/Shutterstock.com.
(JNS) — Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar approved on Feb. 5 the sanctioning of ice-cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever Global, for its decision to sever its licensing agreement with Ben & Jerry’s Israel.
Unilever announced that it was ending the contract last year after Ben & Jerry’s Israel refused to stop selling its dessert products to communities in Judea and Samaria, including eastern Jerusalem.
Sa’ar approved the enacting of Israel’s Boycott Law, which was passed by the Knesset in 2011 and enables sanctions against companies that harm the Jewish state.
The decision still needs approval by the Knesset.
Sa’ar made the move in collaboration with Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and after Ben & Jerry’s Israel CEO Avi Zinger sent a letter calling on the government to retaliate against Unilever. Zinger claimed that the company was promoting the BDS movement yet supplying the state, including the Israel Defense Forces, with goods worth millions of shekels through its other subsidiaries.
“While many countries in the United States are implementing their BDS laws against Unilever Global in the form of withdrawing investments and holdings worth about $1 billion, it is time for the State of Israel to do what it itself demands of the world, and stand firm against any demand for a boycott against Israel,” said Zinger.
By not acting, the government was “undermining Israel’s deterrent power,” which could cause “not only fatal damage to Ben & Jerry’s Israel but to many other businesses in the future,” he added.
Unilever has been suffering financial losses over the last several months, though not directly tied to its decision to stop selling Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream in Israel.
Last month, the company had $26 billion in lost market value. Earlier this month, it fired 1,500 employees and announced it was splitting off its ice-cream division from its food division.