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Hempstead Town officials vow to boycott Ben & Jerry's, parent company Unilever

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin on Thursday addresses

Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin on Thursday addresses a news conference condemning Ben & Jerry's decision to stop selling ice cream in East Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Hempstead Town officials vowed to boycott Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever after the ice cream makers announced this week that they would no longer sell in the Israeli-occupied West Bank or contested East Jerusalem.

Hempstead Town and state officials gathered Thursday at Town Hall with Jewish leaders to condemn Ben & Jerry’s for stating plans to end sales of ice cream in what the ice cream company called "the occupied Palestinian territory."

Republican Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said he has directed every department and town commissioner to examine contracts and products sold by the town and owned by Unilever, covering 400 brands including Dove soap, Lipton tea, Breyers ice cream, Klondike bars and Hellman’s mayonnaise.

The town does not have any direct contracts to sell Ben & Jerry’s, but Clavin said the town is reviewing all products sold throughout Hempstead, as well as the vendors at more than 160 parks.

"Get ready to see them in the garbage. They’re gone. Don't go buy Ben & Jerry's. Buy ice cream that is a friend of Israel — Haagen Dazs it is," Clavin said. "Every contract’s going to be reviewed and we’re going to hold them accountable for their support of this anti-Israeli action."

Clavin said outside of New York City, the town has the largest Jewish population in the United States. Town board members called the Ben & Jerry’s boycott antisemitic, saying they did not boycott countries with documented human rights issues such as China, Venezuela and Russia.

Councilman Bruce Blakeman said, "We will not do business with them and we are urging residents of the Town of Hempstead to boycott them."

In its statement on its website, Ben & Jerry's wrote: "We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners."

Representatives for Ben & Jerry's and Unilever did not immediately comment on the Hempstead news conference.

The Hempstead Town Board unanimously passed legislation in 2016 that the town would not do any business with any companies boycotting Israel in what is known as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement.

The movement seeks to utilize boycotts and other economic pressures to compel changes in Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

Nassau County also passed an anti-BDS law but does not have any contracts with Unilever or Ben & Jerry’s, county officials said.

"I am disappointed by Ben & Jerry’s decision to align itself with the anti-Israel BDS movement, which unfairly and dangerously singles out the world’s only Jewish State," Democratic Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. "I strongly oppose the BDS movement and have worked hard to strengthen the relationship between Israel and Nassau during my time as County Executive."

Ben & Jerry's was also condemned by the Nassau County Republican Majority.

Democratic North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a written statement her town also "is united in its unequivocal stance against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement."

She noted the town board passed legislation in 2017, which prohibits the town with working with companies that participate in the BDS movement, such as Ben & Jerry's is now.

Oyster Bay Supervisor Joe Saladino also said his town passed anti-BDS legislation in 2017.

"We passed it when I first came on board to show respect to everyone who should love one another and appreciate and continue to work together," Saladino said Saturday evening.

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