Lev Topor
Lev Topor

Ben and Jerry’s Salted Caramel Boycott: A Review

Ben & Jerry’s board members have decided to withdraw their ice cream products from Israel and specifically from the disputed territories and settlements in a decision made in July 2020. On the 19th of July 2021, about a year from the original decision, the international company of Ben & Jerry’s finally decided to execute this decision – it had announced to Avi Singer, the local Israeli franchise of Ben & Jerry’s, that the franchise and terms will be terminated at the end of 2022.

The reason for this move was posted on the official website and Twitter account of the ice cream giant: “Ben & Jerry’s will end sales of our ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” was posted on Twitter while the longer website version explains that “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”

In order to understand the nature and impact of Ben & Jerry’s decision one must first understand what their claimed values are and run Natan Sharansky’s 3D test as presented in the last paragraph of this short article. Through a test of three simple questions, Sharansky offers to differentiate legitimate criticism of Israel from antisemitism; Is Delegitimization present in the case? Is Demonization present in the case? Are Double Standers present in the case? These three Ds are the main tool anti-Semites employed against Jews through history. Since there is only a single Jewish state among the nations, and since people worldwide associate Israel with Jews, the 3D test is of great significance.

For the avoidance of any doubt, I do not suggest that Ben & Jerry’s decision to Boycott Israel and de facto attempt to intervene in international politics is directly anti-Semitic. It is not. However, the nature and impact of such a company and such a boycott can lead to delegitimization of Israel and its related communities of Jews worldwide.

In an academic article titled “The Covert War: From BDS to De-legitimization to Antisemitism” published by Israel Affairs, I elaborate on the process by which boycotts lead to delegitimization and then to antisemitism. In a book published by Oxford University Press book my co-author, Prof. Jonathan Fox and I suggest the main reasons for the discrimination of Jews worldwide. Yet, Sharansky’s 3D test is well suited for this case.

Ben & Jerry’s values, as presented on their website, are “Human Rights & Dignity,” “Social & Economic Justice,” and “Environmental Protection, Restoration, & Regeneration.” Furthermore, they support movements that tackle voting rights, racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, climate justice, campaign finance reform and refugee rights. Indeed, the values of the company are of great social and political importance. However, if Ben & Jerry’s want a real impact on international politics, why have they not boycotted the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” alongside Israel? The international community is well aware that it takes two to tango. For instance, in May 2021 even US President Joe Biden called for both sides, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, to avoid conflict.

To conclude, and let you, the reader, decide whether Ben & Jerry’s boycott is legitimate, I suggest applying the above mentioned 3d test:

  • Is Delegitimization present in the case? Yes, by pointing out only a single suspect or an accused party – Israel – and while avoiding criticism of the other party, Ben & Jerry’s promote the delegitimization of the state of Israel, the only Jewish state worldwide, its citizens and indirectly the group which is globally associated with Israel by people worldwide – Jews.
  • Is Demonization present in the case? Yes, again, by pointing out only a single suspect Ben & Jerry’s indirectly suggest that the accused party is an evil endeavor while the other party is a martyr or completely innocent.
  • Are Double Standers present in the case? Yes, once again, by pointing out only a single suspect and avoiding similar measures against the other party Ben & Jerry’s create a sphere of bias that is not legitimate. Additionally, without naming any other country Ben & Jerry’s operate in, why have they not boycotted other countries with similar political, territorial, ethnic or religious conflicts against radical minorities?

The nature and impact of Ben & Jerry’s boycott should be considered only after this 3D test.

About the Author
Dr. Lev Topor is a senior research fellow at the Center for Cyber Law and Policy at the Haifa University. His main research fields are antisemitism and cyber policies. Topor's latest book (w/Jonathan Fox) is titled 'Why Do People Discriminate Against Jews?' and published by Oxford University Press.
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