Progressively Speaking: Should we leave Ben & Jerry’s in the cold?

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Progressively Speaking: Should we leave Ben & Jerry’s in the cold?

Rabbi Charley Baginsky takes a topical issue and offers a Liberal response

“Food can bring people together in a way nothing else could,” said chef and restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi. 

This wonderful quote is usually so true of our community. However, we have recently become bitterly divided by food – and ice cream at that.

Ben & Jerry’s announcement that they will halt sales of their brand in the West Bank, in protest at the occupation and Israeli settlements there, has caused a wave of debate within and outside of the Jewish community.

Even in Liberal Judaism we have seen a big difference of opinions. Some are deeply upset and are boycotting Ben & Jerry’s, while others are praising the company for its stand.

There is a further group who feel the ice cream maker hasn’t gone far enough and should end its operations throughout all of Israel, not just the occupied territories.

If we supported Ben & Jerry’s when it stuck up for refugees – and many of us cheered its tweet to the home secretary criticising the government’s “lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture” – then we have to expect it will have a view on the occupation, whether we agree with it or not.

And indeed, there is something to be said for their stand on this matter. Unlike the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), which targets Israel writ large, Ben & Jerry’s decision was limited in scope.

While Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed concern it was “boycotting Israel”, the company clearly stated it was only stopping sales in the “occupied Palestinian territories” (that is, Jewish settlements in the West Bank) and will continue to sell ice cream throughout the rest of the country.

So perhaps pro-Israel opponents of the settlements, of which many can be found within our Progressive movements, should be celebrating this and any effort emphasising the distinction between Israel and the occupied territories. 

We can certainly criticise the way this announcement was handled by Ben & Jerry’s, rue the losses of well-paid jobs for both Israelis and Palestinians and worry about the antisemitism of some who goaded the brand into taking the decision. 

However, we should also applaud any effort that pressures Israel to end the settlement project while simultaneously legitimising Israel within its internationally recognised borders.

Rabbi Charley Baginsky is chief executive officer of Liberal Judaism

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: