Israeli ambassador calls on US to enact anti-BDS laws
Israel's ambassador to the US has written to the governors of dozens of US states, urging them to enact anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) legislation to punish ice cream giant Ben & Jerry's for ending sales at Israeli settlements.
In a letter to 35 US states which have anti-BDS laws on their books, Gilad Erdan urged the governors to respond to Ben & Jerry's decision this week to halt the sale of its products in illegal West Bank settlements.
It follows a long campaign by activists in the ice cream makers' home state of Vermont to end its business at settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, considered illegal under international law.
"I ask that you consider speaking out against the company's decision, and taking any other relevant steps, including in relation to your state laws and the commercial dealings between Ben & Jerry's and your state," wrote Erdan.
Erdan's move was coordinated with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, according to The Times of Israel.
Currently, 35 US states have passed anti-BDS legislation, including Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, California, Maryland, and Texas.
The state of Vermont, where Ben & Jerry's is headquartered, has no such legislation on its books.
In his letter, Erdan described the ice cream maker's move as, "very severely as it is the de-facto adoption of antisemitic practices and advancement of the de-legitimisation of the Jewish state and the de-humanisation of the Jewish people".
Following their announcement on Monday, Ben & Jerry's stated that the sale of their product will continue until the end of 2022, fulfilling the remaining time of their contract with the current Israeli manufacturer.
After this, Ben & Jerry’s will still be available in Israel, but will no longer be sold in stores at illegal West Bank settlements.
When questioned about Ben & Jerry's decision, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price declined to offer an opinion, while reaffirming the US’s fierce opposition to the BDS movement.
"Well, I don't have a reaction to offer regarding the actions of a private company. But more broadly, what I will say is that we firmly reject the BDS movement, which unfairly singles out Israel," said Price at a press briefing.
"The United States will be a strong partner in fighting efforts around the world that potentially seek to delegitimise Israel and will work tirelessly to support Israel’s further integration into the international community," he added.
The issue of Ben & Jerry's selling ice cream in illegal settlements first arose in 2012, when Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (VTJP) contacted one of the founders, Ben Cohen, to inform him of the issue.
Following Ben & Jerry’s announcement, VTJP issued a statement welcoming the move.
"VTJP joins our fellow activists in the global BDS movement in welcoming Ben & Jerry's decision to end sales of its 'peace & love' ice cream in Israel's unlawful settlements and to not renew the licensing agreement with the Israeli franchise," the statement read.
"This is a decisive step toward ending the company’s complicity in Israel’s occupation and violation of Palestinian rights. Predictably, Ben & Jerry's is now being vilified by Israel’s leaders and threatened by them with legal and political reprisal."