Unilever CEO Appeals to Jewish Establishment Organizations Over Ben & Jerry’s Uproar

The head of Ben & Jerry’s parent company reaffirms Unilever's opposition to boycotting Israel. While Jewish groups welcomed the letters, they also said the response doesn't go far enough

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
The Ben & Jerry's ice-cream factory in the Be'er Tuvia on Tuesday.
The Ben & Jerry's ice-cream factory in the Be'er Tuvia on Tuesday. Credit: Tsafrir Abayov,AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON – Unilever CEO Alan Jope wrote conciliatory letters to several Jewish establishment organizations on Tuesday, after they voiced disapproval over Ben & Jerry’s move to stop selling ice cream in Israeli settlements.

In separate letters to Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations CEO William Daroff and to Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, Jope said he hopes the letter reassures them that Unilever recognizes the concerns and that it remains “fully committed to our colleagues and customers in Israel, and to Jewish communities around the world.”

Jope described the decision of Unilever subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s as a complex matter due to the agreed-upon policy that Ben & Jerry’s independent board has the right to take decisions in accordance with its social mission.

“Ben & Jerry’s has also made it clear that although the brand will not be present in the West Bank from 2023, it will remain in Israel through a different business arrangement,” he wrote. “We have welcomed this decision to stay in Israel emphatically, and have been seeking to handle this matter as respectfully and sensitively as possible.”

Jope also stated that Unilever rejects all forms of discrimination and antisemitism, adding that it has “never expressed any support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and have no intention of changing that position.”

Senior officials from the Conference of Presidents said they appreciate Unilever’s commitment to continue doing business in Israel, though their response doesn’t go far enough. They encouraged the company to use its reported legal ability to override Ben & Jerry’s decision, praising the numerous state authorities investigating whether the decision violates anti-BDS laws.

The letter comes one day after several progressive Jewish organizations called on 33 governors of states with anti-BDS laws to not take legal action against Unilever or Ben & Jerry’s. Officials in five states – Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas – have taken initial steps at examining potential action over the move.

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