Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream purveyor famous for taking stands on hot-button social issues, announced Monday that it was ending sales in the Israeli-occupied territories — plunging itself into one of the most contentious debates on the international stage.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” it said in a statement.
With that, an unabashedly political company that over the years has embraced the Black Lives Matter and criminal justice reform movements also appeared to offer support to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to apply economic and political pressure on Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.
But the company emphasized that it was not boycotting the country as a whole — “we will stay in Israel,” it said — just withdrawing from markets in the West Bank.
The announcement was greeted with anger by many prominent Israelis, who urged people to stop stocking up on Chubby Hubby, Cherry Garcia or any of Ben and Jerry’s other iconic flavors.
“Now we Israelis know which ice cream NOT to buy,” tweeted former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the opposition leader.
The current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, called the company’s decision “morally wrong” and said, “Ben & Jerry’s has decided to brand itself as the anti-Israeli ice cream.”
Ben & Jerry’s declined to comment beyond its statement.
Among other goals, organizers of the boycott movement want Israel to end its occupation of all the land captured in 1967 and dismantle the barriers that separate Israel from much of the West Bank and divide many Palestinian neighborhoods.
While boycott promoters hailed Ben & Jerry’s announcement, they immediately made it clear it was not enough.
“We warmly welcome their decision but call on Ben & Jerry’s to end all operations in apartheid Israel,” said a post on the Twitter account of the Palestinian BDS National Committee.
Ben & Jerry’s withdrawal from the occupied territories will not take effect immediately, as its current contract with the company that produces its ice cream in Israel does not expire until the end of next year. And that vendor, Ben & Jerry’s Israel, moved quickly to dissociate itself from the company.
“We will continue to sell all over Israel!” it declared, adding, “We call on the Israeli government and to all consumers: Do not allow Israel to be boycotted.”
In its own statement, the Vermont-based ice cream maker’s parent company, Unilever, said that it was “fully committed” to its presence in Israel, but acknowledged Ben & Jerry’s right “to take decisions about its social mission.”
On the same day of Ben & Jerry’s announcement, the Israeli defense minister, Benny Gantz, spoke with the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss the need to advance trust-building steps between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, also spoke with Abbas.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.