The president of the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation speaks about the impact of visits to the occupied territories.
By Alex Kane | Jewish Currents | Jul 26, 2022
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for our product to be present within an internationally recognized illegal occupation.”
— Jeff Furman, Ben & Jerry’s
About four decades ago, Ben & Jerry’s board member Jeff Furman, who helped draft the initial business plan for the ice cream company, assisted in expanding operations into Israel. But in 2012, Furman went on his first trip to occupied Palestine, which opened his eyes to Israel’s human rights abuses. In subsequent years, Furman brought Ben & Jerry’s employees and board members to the region to educate them on the human rights situation in Israel/Palestine. Last year, the company decided to end its agreement with its Israeli licensee in order to halt the sales of its ice cream to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. “We’re a values-led company with a long history of advocating for human rights, and economic and social justice,” the company said in an FAQ explaining its boycott of Israeli settlements. “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for our product to be present within an internationally recognized illegal occupation.”
In March, Avi Zinger—the businessman who holds the license to sell Ben & Jerry’s in Israel—sued Unilever, the ice cream maker’s parent company, alleging that Ben & Jerry’s unlawfully violated its licensing agreement with him. As the lawsuit progressed, pressure mounted on Unilever to reverse its subsidiary’s decision. Seven states have since disinvested millions of dollars from Unilever, thanks to laws preventing state funds from going to entities that participate in boycotts of Israel.