Unilever decision highlights crackdown on U.S. Palestinian activism | Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions News

Ben and Jerry’s has sued parent Unilever over a decision last week The sale of the U.S. company’s operations in Israel to a subsidiary cleared the way for it to resume sales of ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The ice cream brand announced last July that it would no longer sell its products in “internationally recognized territories.” illegal occupationThe decision drew contempt from Israel and sparked a year-long campaign to pressure Unilever to reverse the decision.

Supporters in Israel cheered Unilever’s announcement last Tuesday of a sale to an Israeli licensee.

Palestinian rights advocates say the move by multinational consumer goods company Unilever is part of a larger effort to punish solidarity with the Palestinians, and that laws enacted to punish the economic boycott of Israel threaten freedom of speech in the United States.

“In an ice cream company said they would settlement One company could turn into 100 unless Israel fears this will snowball quickly,” Amer Zahr, chairman of the Palestinian New Generation advocacy group, told Al Jazeera.

Ben & Jerry’s announced last July that it would no longer sell its products in areas occupied by Israel’s military. The decision was quickly condemned by Israel and its supporters, who mobilized against the move, portraying it as anti-Semitism.The movement relies on passed laws US states Punish boycott of Israeli products.

Palestinian activists and civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), call such laws undermining freedom of speechPalestinian advocates see the efforts as a sign that the Israeli government is increasingly insecure about its image, which has come under scrutiny as a growing number of human rights groups accuse it of apartheid.

“Unilever’s decision comes after months of coercive measures by Israel and the anti-Palestinian lobby,” said Olivia Katbi, a spokeswoman for the group. boycott, divestment, sanctions (Beidou) movement. “The original decision by Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors to end the sale of OPT is an important symbolic victory.”

Ben & Jerry’s said in a statement on Wednesday that under the new arrangements Unilever had set out, it would no longer Israel.

“While our parent company made this decision, we disagree,” they said. “We still believe that selling our ice cream in the U.S. is not in line with Ben & Jerry’s values Occupied Palestinian Territory. “

punitive boycott

Following the announcement last July, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Gilad Erdan, issued a letter urging the governors of 35 U.S. states to take action and create laws or executive orders to punish them. boycott israel.

The letter called for “decisive action” to “send a clear message that this will not be tolerated”.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog also called the ice cream maker’s move “a new form of terrorism,” Yar Rapid, then Israel’s foreign minister, described the decision as a “shameful surrender to anti-Semitism.” Rapid said he would also pass anti-boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) laws to the States are reaching out.

Modeled after South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, the BDS aims to exert nonviolent pressure on Israel to end its abuses of Palestinians.

Several Republican- and Democratic-controlled states, including Florida, Arizona, New Jersey and New York, subsequently threatened to divest from Unilever or measures have been taken in that direction.

in a statement New York’s Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul welcomed Unilever’s decision on Wednesday, saying the state “acted swiftly to investigate Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s planned sales boycott and, most recently, gave Unilever has a July 6 deadline to prove they are not involved in BDS activities”. Ben & Jerry’s decision to suspend sales applies only to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Hochul’s office did not respond to Al Jazeera’s inquiries about the governor’s support for boycotts accused of being human rights violationsor if she considers the occupied Palestinian territories to be part of Israel.

Unilever isn’t the first company to fail such pressure From Israel and its supporters.

back Airbnb The accommodation website faced backlash when it announced it would no longer operate in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and was forced to change course about five months later.

In January 2019, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Airbnb had been included in the “company under review” and prohibit State employees receive lodging reimbursement at Airbnb for work-related travel.

Artists and cultural figures who cancel performances in Israel, hear from Palestinian activistthere is also the risk of potential consequences.

When New Zealand singer Lord cancels a gig in Israel, Republican lawmakers Florida Threatening to cancel her concerts in the name of cracking down on BDS, a pro-Israel group ran a full-page ad in the Washington Post calling her a “paranoid.”

While Republicans and Democrats have sparred over freedom of speech restrictions from different ideological perspectives, both sides have struck down efforts to promote an economic boycott against israel.

Several federal courts have dismissed Anti-BDS The laws of the past few years are unconstitutional. But a U.S. appeals court ruled last month in favor of an Arkansas law that punishes companies that boycott Israel.

Brian House, an attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Program, said in a statement that the ruling departs from a “long tradition” of boycotts as a means of political expression.

Lina Assi, a spokeswoman for the Palestinian legal agency, said the anti-BDS law was “wider attempt slandering and suppressing meaningful solidarity with the Palestinians”.

For some, the sight of a country with one of the strongest militaries in the world taking the time and effort to reverse an ice cream company’s decision became a source of humor.

In response to from state of israel Official Twitter account condemns Ben & Jerry’s announcement, one Twitter user answer sarcastically: “You do have nuclear missiles. It’s embarrassing.”

For his part, Zaal said the collapse of Ben & Jerry’s decision was Israel’s “Fragile“.

“We know the truth is on our side, and even with a disappointing decision like this, it raises questions about Profession and Israel’s deprivation of Palestinians of their basic rights. “

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