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The Global BDS Movement Just Suffered a 'Stunning' Defeat

Courtesy of Ben & Jerry's via AP

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement took a big hit this week after Unilever poured cold water on Ben & Jerry's decision to discontinue sales in the West Bank, claiming it would be "inconsistent" with their values to sell ice cream in "the Occupied Palestinian Territory." 

The terms of Unilever's acquisition of Ben & Jerry's in 2000 stipulated that financial and operational decisions were theirs to make, though Ben & Jerry's and its independent board would continue to have decision-making rights regarding the brand's social mission.

Thus, on Tuesday, Unilever announced it sold its Ben & Jerry's business interests in Israel to the current licensee in the country. 

"Unilever has used the opportunity of the past year to listen to perspectives on this complex and sensitive matter and believes this is the best outcome for Ben & Jerry's in Israel," the company said in a statement

"Unilever rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance," the statement continued. "Antisemitism has no place in any society. We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position." 

Arsen Ostrovsky, CEO of the International Legal Forum, which initiated one of the first legal actions against Unilever in the United States on behalf of a Palestinian claimant, called the decision a "sweet victory." 

Ostrovsky argued Ben & Jerry's decision was not just about boycotting the settlements but the entire state of Israel. 

"Although [BDS] may use words like justice, human rights, social values—at the core of [the movement] lies a deep-seated Jew hatred and hostility against Israel, which is ultimately what this campaign exposed," he told Townhall. 

The Palestinian claimant made the case that it is actually his family and community that pays the price during a boycott, which does nothing to promote Palestinian rights but rather creates "more enmity, hatred, and division," according to Ostrovsky, an Israeli human rights attorney. 

"What is a victory for the BDS movement is ultimately a defeat for the Palestinians themselves because they're the ones that will suffer, they're the ones that will lose out on jobs," he said. 

Unilever's "principled decision" comes after tremendous financial and legal pressure, Ostrovsky said, calling their move "a stunning and unequivocal defeat for the global BDS campaign." 

While the BDS movement will carry on, this week's "sweet victory" shows its opposition is not only strong but successful, too. 

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