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Ben & Jerry's: Israeli president accuses ice cream company of 'new kind of terrorism'

Isaac Herzog joins uproar over decision to cut sales to Israeli settlements, calling economic boycotts 'terrorism'
Ben & Jerry's
Ben & Jerry's has said that its commercial operations in the occupied Palestinian territories were 'inconsistent' with its values (AFP)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog called boycotts of Israel over human rights concerns "a new kind of terrorism" amid an uproar over Ben & Jerry’s decision to cease ice cream sales in Israeli settlements, which are deemed by many global bodies to exist in contravention of international law. 

Ben & Jerry's, long the target of calls from the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, announced earlier this week that it would cease sales to Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank, sparking outrage from Israeli leaders.

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"The boycott against Israel is a new type of terrorism - economic terrorism," Herzog said during remarks at a memorial event for former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir on Wednesday.

"[This is] terrorism that seeks to harm Israeli citizens and the Israeli economy. We must oppose this boycott and terrorism of any kind.

"The BDS campaign does not pursue peace and seeks to undermine the very existence of the State of Israel. It is aiming its arrows at the Israeli economy," he continued, insisting that all Israeli leaders over the years would respond aggressively to such measures.

The BDS movement seeks to challenge Israel's occupation and abuses of Palestinian human rights through economic, cultural and academic boycotts of Israel, similar to the successful boycott campaigns of apartheid South Africa. 

'An ice cream boycott is not terrorism'

The Palestinian Authority's foreign ministry released a statement on Wednesday addressing Herzog's comments, saying "the occupation is terrorism itself. It is the worst kind of terrorism".

"The Israeli president should thank Ben & Jerry's. They're an alarm bell. Either Israel wakes up from its occupation and works to end it, or it will face a total boycott," the ministry warned.

And not all in Israel were in agreement with Herzog's characterisation of the boycott. 

Yair Golan, a retired major-general and a member of the current Knesset with the left-leaning Meretz party, slammed Herzog on Twitter: "As someone who knows terrorism and has been fighting terrorism all his life, what is happening in the international arena is not terrorism. We must fight against the boycott with one hand, and for a two-state solution with the other. But using concepts drawn from the world of violence is not the way."

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"An ice cream boycott is not terrorism," Golan added.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Israelis to boycott the ice cream company, which has long been known for its social justice activism. 

On Tuesday, the Israeli ambassador to the US, Gilad Erdan, penned letters to governors of more than 30 states that have passed legislation targeting BDS, urging them to act against Ben & Jerry’s in line with those laws.

Most US anti-BDS laws, however, deal with government contracts, which may not be essential to the ice cream company.

Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry's has also come in for criticism from pro-Palestinian activists, who have accused the ice cream company of not going far enough. 

Ben & Jerry’s decision to cut off sales to Israeli settlements will not take effect until the end of 2022 when its contract with the current Israeli manufacturer and distributor expires.