Ben & Jerry’s sues parent company Unilever for blocking ice cream sales in the Israeli-occupied West Bank

FILE PHOTO: Ben & Jerry's ice cream delivery truck is seen at their factory in Bayer Tuvia, Israel
A Ben & Jerry’s ice cream delivery truck is seen at their factory in Beer Tuvia, Israel, on July 20, 2021.

Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

New York American ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s said Tuesday it is suing its parent company Unilever to block a move that would sell its product in West Bank settlements that would be contrary to its values. The company, known for its political activism, took the unusual step last week after London-based Unilever announced an injunction seeking an injunction. sold its interest in the ice cream brand Israeli license holder Avi Ginger.

According to the complaint filed in US District Court, the legal action “…was necessary to protect the brand and social integrity.” Ben & Jerry’s has built for decades.

The complaint states that Unilever’s decision was “made without the consent of the independent board of Ben & Jerry’s,” and goes against the merger agreement that gave the board the ability to protect the founder’s values ​​and reputation.

In July of last year, based in Vermont Ben & Jerry’s announcement It would no longer sell its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, which the Jewish state confiscated in 1967, saying it was “inconsistent with our values”, although it said it did not sell its products in Israel. is planned.

However, Zinger continued to produce ice cream at its factory in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and went against Ben & Jerry’s decision to distribute it to Israeli settlements.

Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in communities widely considered illegal under international law.

The Palestinians praised the company’s move last year, which was seen as a victory for the company. bds movementwhich calls for the boycott, division and sanctions of the Jewish state, described as a mistreatment of Palestinians.

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Founded in the United States in 1978, Ben & Jerry’s is known for its progressive causes, including protecting the environment and promoting human rights, and often releases special ice cream flavors in support of or opposing the cause.

Unilever, which said last week that it “never expressed any support” for the BDS movement, defended its right to execute the transaction.

“As we said in our June 29 statement, Unilever had the right to enter into this arrangement. The deal has already been closed,” the company said on Tuesday. We do not comment on pending litigation.

Israel hailed Unilever’s move as a victory in the ongoing campaign against the BDS movement.

When Ben & Jerry’s went on sale, the companies agreed that the ice cream maker’s independent board would be free to pursue its social mission, but Unilever would have the final word on financial and operational decisions.

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Zinger, the owner of Israel-based American Quality Products Ltd., filed suit in March against Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s in US federal court for ending their business relationship, saying it violated US and Israeli law.

Zinger’s legal team said Unilever’s recent decision was part of a settlement. He thanked Unilever for resolving the matter and for its “strong and principled stand” against BDS. “There is no room for discrimination in the commercial sale of ice cream,” Zinger said.

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