Ben & Jerry’s to Terminate Selling Its Products in OPT Settlements

Ben & Jerry’s, an American Vermont-based company that manufactures ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet, announced Monday, July 19, it was going to stop selling its ice cream in settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, saying the sales in the territories are “inconsistent with our values.” Ben & Jerry’s was founded in 1978 by two Jewish Americans, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. The ice cream maker was bought in 2000 by British company Unilever.

Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List, tweeted this photograph of himself eating a tub of Ben & Jerry’s "Cone Sweet Cone" ice cream, Tuesday, July 13.

Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List, tweeted this photograph of himself eating a tub of Ben & Jerry’s “Cone Sweet Cone” ice cream, Tuesday, July 13. (Photo: Zo Haderech)

The announcement was one of the strongest and highest-profile rebukes by a well-known company of Israel’s policy of settling its citizens on occupied lands. The settlements are widely seen by the international community as illegal and obstacles to peace. “We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region,” the statement said. “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.”

Hadash lawmakers welcomed the news. MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List, tweeted a smiling image of himself eating a tub of Ben & Jerry’s “Cone Sweet Cone” ice cream. MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), wrote on Twitter that Ben and Jerry’s decision was “appropriate and moral.” She added that the “occupied territories are not part of Israel” and that the move is an important step to help pressure the Israeli government to end the occupation.

Norway’s KLP Divests from 16 Companies Complicit in Occupation

Norway’s largest pension fund, Kommunal Landspensjonskasse (KLP), announced on July 5 that it would no longer hold investments in 16 companies including Alstom and Motorola because of their links to settlements in the occupied West Bank. Along with nearly all UN member countries, Norway considers the settlements a breach of international law. A 2020 United Nations report said it had uncovered 112 Israeli and international companies that have operations in the West Bank.

The companies, which span the fields of telecom, banking, energy and construction, all help facilitate Israel’s presence and therefore risk being complicit in breaches of international law, and against the pension fund’s ethical guidelines, KLP said in a statement. “In KLP’s assessment, there is an unacceptable risk that the excluded companies are contributing to the abuse of human rights in situations of war and conflict through their links with the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank,” the statement elaborated. The move by KLP follows a decision in May by Norway’s sovereign wealth fund to exclude two companies linked to construction and real estate in the occupied Palestinian territories.

KLP said it had sold stock shares in the companies worth 275 million Norwegian crowns ($32 million) and as of June had completed the divestment process. The pension fund also announced that it has sold its bond holdings In Motorola and Alstom.

Selling its Motorola Solutions holdings was “a very straightforward decision” according to KLP, as the electronics giant’s video security and software was used in West Bank border surveillance. Telecom companies including Bezeq and Cellcom Israel were also removed from KLP’s investment portfolio as the services they provide help make the settlements more attractive residential areas, while various banks, including Bank Leumi, helped finance the infrastructure. In a similar vein, construction and engineering groups such as Alstom and local peers Ashtrom and Electra were responsible for building the infrastructure, while Paz Oil helped power them.

The other companies to be divested from include Bank Hapoalim, Israel Discount Bank, Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, Delek Group, Energix Renewable Energies, First International Bank of Israel and Partner Communications. Holdings in the telecom company Altice, which was still listed among KLP’s assets as late as January 2021, were also sold off by the Norwegian pension fund.