Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist who lives in the West Bank, filed a complaint against Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, over the ice cream giant’s “discriminatory boycott” against Israel.
The complaint was filed to New York’s Division of Human Rights in October against Unilever’s United States division, the New York Post reported. The complaint, which can be read in full on the Elder of Ziyon blog, states that Eid is opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement because it’s “counterproductive to peace and creates only more hatred, enmity and polarization” and boycotts like Ben & Jerry’s “will only result in increased economic hardships for actual Palestinians, such as myself.” In July, Ben & Jerry’s announced that they will no longer operate in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
“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,” the complaint stated.
The complaint noted that while Unilever has maintained that Ben & Jerry’s will conduct business elsewhere in Israel, they are “highly unlikely” to find a distributor elsewhere in Israel because Israeli law prohibits boycott activity based on “place of residence.” “The practical effect of the announcement is a decision to boycott the entire State of Israel. 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.”
Additionally, the complaint pointed to the fact that Anuradha Mittal, who heads Ben & Jerry’s board, “vehemently objected” to the part of the statement saying they would do business elsewhere in Israel, claiming that Unilever inserted that qualifier. Mittal has also expressed support for boycotting Israel, according to the complaint. “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 complaint concluded by stating that the Gush Etzion Shopping Center in the West Bank is a mall at which both Palestinians and Israelis can shop, a “true realization of coexistence,” and is a place where Eid and his friends and family go to eat ice cream. “Gush Etzion is not the only mixed-commercial area in which such a positive dynamic occurs, and they are all targeted by the BDS movement, trying to push us apart instead of fostering and promoting such people-to-people togetherness, friendship, cooperation and peace,” the complaint stated. “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 is invited to attend an event in January 2023 in the West Bank where ice cream will be served, but attendees will not have access to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as a result of the Ben & Jerry’s boycott, therefore making Eid “an aggrieved party,” per the complaint.
Eid told the New York Post: “The gangsters behind the BDS are causing a lot of damage to the Palestinians. I want to raise awareness among the US judicial system about how much damage they are causing. If they poured all of the money they are spending on boycotts into building factories and creating jobs in the West Bank and Gaza, it would go a long way to truly helping Palestinians.”
Stop Antisemitism tweeted that they applaud Eid for his complaint against Unilever.
— StopAntisemitism.org (@StopAntisemites) November 17, 2021
The Simon Wiesenthal Center also tweeted, “Past due for @Unilever to resolve the @benandjerrys disaster now. The stain won’t wash away. More US states and cities taking action against this immoral and illegal boycott.”
— SimonWiesenthalCntr (@simonwiesenthal) November 17, 2021
Unilever did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.
Eid’s complaint comes as states like Arizona, Florida, New Jersey and New York have stated that they plan to enforce their anti-BDS laws against Unilever over the Ben & Jerry’s boycott. StandWithUs and the Israeli American Coalition for Action have argued in a letter that Unilever has authority under its contract with Ben & Jerry’s to veto the ice cream giant’s decision.