The US State Department on Tuesday reiterated the Biden administration’s opposition to the boycott Israel movement after Ben & Jerry’s announced it will stop selling ice cream in West Bank settlements, but refused to specifically address the Vermont-based firm’s decision.
“I don’t have a reaction to offer regarding the actions of a private company. More broadly what I would say is that we firmly reject the BDS movement, which unfairly singles out Israel,” spokesman Ned Price said during the daily briefing, using the initials for boycotts, divestment and sanctions.
He added: “While the Biden-Harris administration will fully and always respect the First Amendment rights of our citizens, of the American people, the United States will be a strong partner in fighting efforts around the world that potentially seek to delegitimize Israel.”
Price was also asked if the decision by Ben & Jerry’s would impact any review by the administration of its policy on the legitimacy of settlements or its support for any move at the federal level against BDS.
“Our position on BDS has been clear. This is not something that we need to review. Again, the BDS movement unfairly singles out Israel,” he said.
He added that the US “will be a strong partner in fighting efforts around the world that potentially seek to delegitimize Israel,” in a way that is “consistent with the First Amendment rights of the American people.”
The comments by Price came after Israel’s ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan sent letters to the governors of the 35 states with anti-BDS laws, requesting that they sanction Ben & Jerry’s over its decision to halt sales in settlements.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has also said he plans to ask these states to enforce these laws against the ice cream maker.
The states that have passed anti-BDS legislation include Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, California, Maryland and Texas — but not Vermont, where Ben & Jerry’s is headquartered.
On Monday, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would no longer distribute its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” apparently referring to West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem. It said the decision would take effect at the end of 2022, when its contract with the current Israeli manufacturer and distributor expires. The future of Ben & Jerry’s sales across Israel beginning in 2023 remains in question.