After Ben & Jerry's announced it would no longer sell ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the owner of a New York City franchise said he will donate a portion of his sales to Israel.
''We couldn't sit back and watch without speaking up,'' Joel Gasman, owner of a franchise on the Upper West Side, told the New York Post on Thursday. ''It has definitely hurt our bottom line and our overall store value. We did fear boycotts from customers. We still do.''
Gasman and many of his customers are Jewish, and he said the corporate ban on West Bank sales has hurt sales at his own store.
''We've lost some foot traffic as well as bigger catering jobs that usually help us during the summer,'' he said. ''We're getting bad reviews online that have nothing to do with the store, only in regard to corporate's views.''
His franchise parent company announced July 19 that it would be ''inconsistent'' with the company's values to allow the famous brand of ice cream to be sold in the ''Occupied Palestinian Territory.''
''We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry's ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region,'' the announcement said. ''We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.''
The company said it plans on staying in Israel ''under a different arrangement.''
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban was ''clearly [an] anti-Israel step,'' saying there will be ''serious consequences, legal and otherwise'' and that Israel ''will act aggressively against all boycott actions directed against its citizens,'' CNBC reported July 21.
The move also appeared to have affected Unilever, the company that owns Ben & Jerry's, with stock prices going lower since the announcement.
Unilever CEO Alan Jope told investors Thursday that it is committed to remaining in Israel.
''Unilever remains fully committed to our business in Israel,'' Jope said. ''This was a decision that was taken by Ben & Jerry's and its independent board in line with an acquisition agreement that we signed 20 years ago. I can assure you it is not our intent to regularly visit matters of this, where sensitivity has been a long-standing issue for Ben & Jerry's.''
In its official statement, Unilever, which acquired Ben & Jerry's in 2000, said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ''complex,'' but the company's goal is to ''serve consumers with essential products that contribute to their health, wellbeing and enjoyment.''
''Ben & Jerry's was acquired by Unilever in 2000. As part of the acquisition agreement, we have always recognized the right of the brand and its independent board to take decisions about its social mission,'' the statement said. ''We also welcome the fact that Ben & Jerry's will stay in Israel.''
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