Israeli Knesset knocks Unilever; HRW report sparks criticism: Israel Update

July 30, 2021

Some 90 lawmakers from all factions in the Knesset signed a letter on Wednesday asking Unilever, which owns Ben & Jerry's, to immediately revoke their decision to stop selling its products in the Israeli settlements. The Ben & Jerry's ice cream brand, which was acquired by Unilever in 2000 in a deal allowing the brand to operate with larger autonomy than other subsidiaries, made its decision after pressure from pro-Palestinian groups regarding its business in Israel and Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Last week, Ben & Jerry's announced that the selling of its ice cream "in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" was “inconsistent with our values.” While the statement indicated the company intends to work on a new arrangement to continue to sell ice cream solely within the Green Line, it is unclear how such a proposal would take shape with Ben and Jerry's most recent statementThe licensing agreement Ben & Jerry’s has with its Israeli counterpart will continue unchanged through the end of 2022.


The international group Human Rights Watch, was has long been accused of harboring and acting on bias against Israel, issued a report alleging Israeli forces and Palestinian terrorist groups both committed war crimes during the May 2021 conflict between Hamas and Israel. It cited several Israeli airstrikes and Hamas’ rocket fire aimed at Israel’s civilian population. Such attacks, it said, violate “the prohibition against deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians.” However, the report focused more on Israeli actions during the fighting. Many observers were critical of the report, blaming HRW for its continued bias against Israel.


The Israeli government is set to increase the number of work permits for West Bank Palestinians by 16,000 amid calls by Israeli officials to strengthen the ailing Palestinian Authority economy. “This step is the first in a series of steps currently being considered in talks between Palestinian and Israeli officials aimed at helping to shore up the economic fortitude of the Palestinian Authority,” said Regional Affairs Minister Issawi FrejAccording to official figures, roughly 87,000 Palestinians work legally in Israel, and another 35,000 work in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Most of the new permits will be issued specifically for construction workers or for work at hotels across Israel.

Israeli filmmakers Rudy Rochman, Andrew (Noam) Leibman, and Edouard David Benaym were released by the Nigerian Secret Service and were flown back to Israel on Wednesday evening. The three were detained in Nigeria while filming material for the documentary "We Were Never Lost," which aims to explore the Jewish African experience. The filmmakers were reportedly arrested on charges of making contact with the Igbo, a small Jewish community in southern Nigeria, where some of the community are thought to be "anti-government separatists" who continue to live in a state of conflict with the Nigerian government. 

A couple of dozen college students from Cincinnati spent their summer interning in Tel Aviv and traveling around the country as part of Onward Israel. Follow their last few experiences in this week-by-week blog.


For the remainder of the summer, we will be sending the Israel Update every two weeks. We look forward to connecting with you again on August 13. 


Shabbat Shalom, 


Jackie Congedo, Director, JCRC


P.S. If you or a friend would like to get our own, up-to-the-minute Israel Update, you can sign up here; when asked for "interests" click "weekly Israel Update."

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Join the Jewish Federation on an Israel adventure from the comfort of your home with Hidden Treasures: A Virtual Journey Along the Israel TrailThere are multiple tour dates and experiences to see, the next one on Sunday, August 22, and you can learn more and RSVP for the ones that interest you. 


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