Latest Jopp News
Aug 11, 2021
Unilever’s chief executive has distanced himself from the company’s decision to stop serving Israel’s West Bank settlements by Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand JERUSALEM — Unilever’s chief executive said Thursday that the global consumer goods giant remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel, serving Israeli settlements occupied this week by the company’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand distances itself from the announcement of closure. But CEO Alan Jopp gave no indication that Unilever would force Ben & Jerry’s to roll back its controversial decision. The Ben & Jerry’s announcement is one of the strongest moves by a well-known company against Israeli settlements, which are widely considered illegal by the international community. The Israeli government has condemned the decision, accusing the company of being involved in a Palestinian-led boycott campaign against Israel. It has urged 35 US states to punish Unilever with anti-boycott laws. In a conference call with investors, Jopp said that Ben & Jerry’s, which has a long history of social activism, had made the decision itself. He said that under its purchase agreement with Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, the iconic ice cream company maintained broad independence over its social justice policies, and Unilever respected that arrangement. “Obviously this is a complex and sensitive matter that evokes very strong emotions,” he said. “If there’s one message I want to underline in this call, it’s that Unilever remains fully committed to our business in Israel.” This includes a new 35 million euro ($41 million) razor factory, corporate offices and facilities that employ some 2,000 people, an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars and support for “social programs”, he said. He added that “it is not our intention” to regularly delve into such sensitive matters. “This has been a long-standing issue for Ben & Jerry’s,” he said. “We were aware of this decision by the brand and its independent board, but it is certainly not our intention that every quarter would be such a tumultuous one.” It is not clear whether his comments will quell the uproar in Israel. The country’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said earlier this week that he spoke to Jopp in what he called a “clearly anti-Israel move”. Bennett, a former leader of the West Bank settlement movement, said on Thursday that Israel would “use the tools at its disposal – including legal ones on this issue” and that those boycotting Israel “need to know how to pay There will be a price.” In its announcement, Ben & Jerry’s said it would move to sell ice cream in the occupied West Bank and contest elections in East Jerusalem, saying such sales “do not conform to our values.” The company’s factory is in southern Israel, not in a settlement, meaning it is targeting consumers as opposed to a production facility. The Palestinians claim both territories, annexed by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as part of a future independent state. Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 war and considers the region part of its undivided capital. It said the West Bank is a disputed territory whose fate should be settled in peace talks. But the international community widely views both areas as occupied territories and considers the settlements, home to some 700,000 Israelis, illegal under international law. In its statement, Ben & Jerry’s sought to differentiate between Israel and the occupied land, saying it would continue to produce ice cream inside Israel through a “separate arrangement.” But it gave no further details and said it would end its production agreement with its longtime Israeli licensee at the end of next year. Israel and its settlements will be difficult to separate. A main distribution channel for the Israeli supermarket chain, Ben & Jerry’s, operates in the settlements. Israeli law also prohibits local companies from boycotting settlements. Israel does not differentiate between settlements and the rest of its territory. When home-rental company Airbnb announced in 2018 that it would no longer list properties in West Bank settlements, Israel strongly condemned the move and ultimately pressured the company to rescind the decision. Israel’s ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, Gilad Erden, sent a letter this week to the governors of 35 US states urging Unilever to be punished under anti-boycott laws. On Thursday, he joined Bennett in hosting a delegation of foreign diplomats. Erden said he was engaging diplomats in the fight against “anti-Israeli discrimination” on the international stage. The controversy has turned Israel’s ice cream market into the latest front in Israel’s long-running fight against the BDS movement, a Palestinian-led grassroots campaign that calls for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israeli businesses, cultural institutions and universities. promotes. BDS organizers say they are protesting Israeli persecution of Palestinians in a campaign based on the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Its nonviolent message has resonated with audiences around the world, including on many American college campuses. But Israel says the movement has a deeper agenda that aims to illegalize and destroy the country. Some have expressed concern that Ben & Jerry’s, whose founders are both Jewish, may inspire other companies to follow suit. However, some proponents of Israel have said the decision should be a wake-up call on the policies of settling in the lands occupied by half a century. “When a major ice cream company originally founded by two Jewish entrepreneurs decides not to sell its products in occupied territories, it is not anti-Semitic,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal American pro-Israeli lobbying group J Street. he said. “The fight against antisemitism would be of great help if the Israeli government and American Jewish leaders would stop using the term against those who draw a principled and rational distinction between commercial transactions in the State of Israel and the territory it occupied.” he said. .