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Israel forms special task force to pressure Ben & Jerry's over settlements boycott: report

Business Insider logo Business Insider 7/27/2021 (Bryan Metzger)
a sign on the side of a building: An Israeli flag is set atop a delivery truck outside US ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry's factory in Be'er Tuvia, on July 21, 2021 Emmanuel Dunand / AFP © Emmanuel Dunand / AFP An Israeli flag is set atop a delivery truck outside US ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry's factory in Be'er Tuvia, on July 21, 2021 Emmanuel Dunand / AFP
  • Ben & Jerry's announced it would stop selling ice cream in East Jerusalem or West Bank settlements in Jan 2023.
  • Israel has formed a 'special task force' to pressure Ben & Jerry's to reverse its decision.
  • A classified cable sent to Israeli diplomatic missions called the move "extreme cancel culture."
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The Israeli government is scrambling to mount a massive pressure campaign against Ben & Jerry's and its parent company Unilever following the company's decision to stop selling its ice cream in occupied Palestine territory, Axios reported on Tuesday.

The ice cream company announced last week that it would no longer sell its products in East Jerusalem or in Israeli settlements in the West Bank beginning in January 2023, opting to continue selling within Israel's pre-1967 borders through a separate arrangement.

The company said it was "inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry's ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" while parent company Unilever defended the move as part of the its "corporate responsibility and social justice policy."

Three days later, the Israeli government reportedly sent out a classified cable to Israeli diplomatic missions in North America and Europe directing them to "encourage Jewish organizations, pro-Israel advocacy groups and evangelical communities to organize demonstrations in front of Ben & Jerry's and Unilever offices and put pressure on investors and distributors for both companies."

In addition to encouraging public protests and running a media campaign, the Israeli diplomats were instructed to "push for the activation of anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) legislation in several states" while lobbying public officials.

Axios reports that the cable said the company's decision "smells like extreme cancel culture" and tied it to the growing BDS movement, which the cable also claimed was "motivated by antisemitism."

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It's not the first time the company has waded into politics. Last year, the company was applauded for a forceful statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement that called out a "culture of white supremacy" in America.

Jerry Greenfield, one of the company's co-founders, has previously cited his Jewish upbringing as a driving force in his recognition of discrimination and marginalization. Despite this, Israeli officials have reacted harshly to the announcement, with Foreign Minister and alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid calling the decision a "shameful surrender to antisemitism, to BDS."

Following the backlash, Unilever CEO Alan Jope said in a letter to the Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday that "we have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position."

READ MORE: The controversy over Ben & Jerry's move to stop selling ice cream in occupied Palestinian territory

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