Palestinian sues Ben and Jerry’s for discriminating against Palestinians

In boycotting settlements in Judea and Samaria, Ben and Jerry’s is also discriminating against Palestinians who live there, Eid said. 

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

A Palestinian human rights advocate is suing the owner of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream over its plans to withdraw sales of its product from Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.

Claiming the move discriminates against Palestinians such as himself, the suit also alleges that the withdrawal amounts to a de facto boycott of the whole of Israel.

The suit is being brought by Bassam Eid, a former researcher for B’Tselem who now advocates for Palestinian human rights without antisemitism. According to a copy of the suit seen by pro-Israel Blogger Elder of Ziyon, the case has been filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights against Conopco Inc, charging the company with aiding and abetting “an unlawful discriminatory boycott.”

The ice cream company announced in July that it would cease selling its products in Judea and Samaria.

“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” read a statement from the company.

“We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. 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.”

On the same day as the announcement was made, Conopco Inc announced its support of the decision, “effectively endorsing the company’s boycott,” the suit details.

In the text of the suit, Eid explains that he believes the move will only serve to raise tensions between Jews and Palestinians, not heal the rift.

“I am a Palestinian Arab human rights activist. I was born in Jerusalem and reside in Jericho,” he wrote. “I have dedicated my life advocating for peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. In doing so, I firmly reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, otherwise known as ‘BDS’.

“I believe BDS is counterproductive to peace and creates only more hatred, enmity and polarization, as evidenced by the Respondent’s actions in this matter. Moreover, whereas the BDS movement’s spokespeople and supporters live in comfortable circumstances abroad, such boycotts as this will only result in increased economic hardships for actual Palestinians, such as myself.”

He added: “If so-called pro-Palestinian activists truly want to help the Palestinians’ cause, then they should demand Palestinian leadership respect basic freedom, human rights and democracy for the Palestinian people, while assisting Israel in creating more jobs employing Palestinian people and initiating programs that bring the sides together, not create barriers, walls and only more hate.”

Ben and Jerry’s have said that they intend to keep selling ice cream in the rest of Israel “through a different arrangement,” but Eid believes this will not be possible in practice as it will be illegal for any Israeli distributer to exempt Judea and Samaria. Consequently, Ben and Jerry’s will, in effect, be boycotting the whole of Israel.

“As it is highly unlikely that the Respondent will find an Israeli distributor to be a willing accomplice to such illegal and discriminatory BDS activity, the practical effect of the announcement is a decision to boycott the entire State of Israel,” Eid argued. “Therefore, regardless of where one draws the lines of Israel’s borders, the boycott will also to apply to me, as a resident of Jericho, in the purported ‘OPT’.”

Pointing to statements by Anuradha Mittal, Chairperson of the Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, in support of a boycott of Israel, Eid concludes: “In other words, the circumstances of the Ben & Jerry’s announcement indicate that the company’s boycott is intended to engage in an unlawful discriminatory boycott, and the rhetoric about “illegal occupation” is simply a fig leaf for the discriminatory activity.

“The BDS’s movement has had tremendous negative affect on me and other Palestinians, some of whom have lost their place of employment and access to goods and services,” Eid added.