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Ben & Jerry’s boycott could harm Palestinian employees


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Ben & Jerry’s decision to halt sales of their ice cream in the West Bank will harm Palestinian workers who work for the main distributor of the ice cream in the West Bank, Hen Israeli, vice president of the distributor, warned in an interview on Wednesday.

Israeli is vice president of Sagi Group, which operates in the industrial area at Mishor Adumim outside of Jerusalem and employs about 45 employees. Sagi Group distributes about two tons of ice cream to Jerusalem and the West Bank every week.

The company employs 10 Palestinians from nearby villages who receive working conditions and salaries they could not earn under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority, according to Israeli, who stressed that the decision would hurt the Palestinian employees if the company’s share of the distribution of the ice cream is lost.

Israeli explained that the company has already begun assessing the situation to understand what impact it will have on the company. “I market other products, but the ice cream for me is a significant portion. It should be understood that such a decision first and foremost harms the employees, less the company at large,” he told Ynet. “The State of Israel must respond and assist in this struggle.”Although the owners of Ben & Jerry’s stated that they would work to find a solution to allow the Israeli franchise to continue selling ice cream outside of the West Bank, the board of directors of the company stated that they had demanded a boycott of Israel in general.

Avi Zinger, owner of the  Ben & Jerry’s Israel franchise – who always sold his ice cream on both sides of the Green Line – has for years resisted pressure by the parent company to boycott West Bank settlements. Politicians and activists called to continue buying Ben & Jerry’s within Israel in order to support the Israeli franchise.

This would not be the first time that boycotts against Israel have caused harm to Palestinians.

Some 500 Palestinian employees lost their jobs at SodaStream after the company moved from Mishor Admumim to a campus at the Idan Negev industrial area after being targeted by the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, although the CEO of the company says the move was due to a need to expand, not pressure by BDS. Some 74 Palestinians were able to continue working at the Negev plant after the move.

Nabil Basherat, a Palestinian who works as a manager at SodaStream, told Israel Hayom in 2018 that the “global BDS campaign has done the Palestinians more harm ‎than good,” adding that BDS pressure led to thousands of Palestinians losing their employment when the Mishor Adumim factory shut down.

Nadia Aloush, a Palestinian who works as a manager at the Mishor Admumim branch of the Rami Levy supermarket chain, also expressed opposition to BDS. “They want Rami Levy to close his stores, but I ask – ‎who will employ Palestinians instead? The Palestinian Authority ‎has failed to offer jobs to the Palestinians who worked in ‎SodaStream. I don’t understand why the world keeps donating ‎‎[to the PA] when it fails to even provide its people with jobs,” Aloush told Israel Hayom.‎

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.


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