On the 19 July 2021, American ice cream manufacturer Ben and Jerry’s announced that it would let its contract to sell confectionery products in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which ends in 2022, expire.
The boycott will only cover the settled regions considered by international law as illegal, in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and still plan to distribute their products throughout the rest of Israel.
The Occupied Palestinian Territories, according the United Kingdom’s Government website, have been “occupied by Israel since 1967”, and are “an obstacle to peace and threaten a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
This decision, of course, is controversial. The Israel-Palestine situation is, after all, one of the most hotly-contested political and religious disagreements of our time, with many innocent lives lost in recent decades, and many critics have spoken out against the decision. The conflict is rooted in thousands of years of tension and has been reignited in the last 75 years.
Some argue the announcement from the ice cream company is inappropriate, provocative and unnecessary, whilst others suggest the boycott does not go far enough and should cover a greater region, not just the occupied land.
However, whilst it will take a lot more than a lack of ice cream to bring peace to the region, it is widely hoped that a multinational company with the international reputation of Ben and Jerry’s drawing attention to the issue could provide a catalyst for other organisations and governments to push for a peaceful solution in the area, particularly in relation to the internationally acknowledged illegally occupied settlements in Palestine.
This announcement comes six years after Ben and Jerry’s released a statement describing the local market in the Middle Eastern region as “complex”, with the hope of maintaining a presence in the area to enact significant positive change.
Many have argued that politics should not be brought into the retail industry, but supporters of the Vermont ice cream company point out that Ben and Jerry’s has been inherently political-conscious for the majority of its 43-year existence.
Since 1978, when New Yorkers Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield set up an ice cream parlour in Burlington, Vermont, the company has campaigned for environmental conservation, international peace efforts and LGBTQ+ rights, as well as against issues such as racism and corruption in business and politics.
Once more then, Ben and Jerry’s hopes to use its notoriety and principles to create positive, lasting change.