Ben & Jerry's Suing Unilever to Block Sale of Israeli Business

The sale of the business to an Israeli licensee would pave the way for a resumption of sales of the ice cream brand in Israeli West Bank settlements

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
File: A Ben & Jerry's refrigerator is seen at a food store in the Jewish settlement of Efrat in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, 2021.
File: A Ben & Jerry's refrigerator is seen at a food store in the Jewish settlement of Efrat in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, 2021.Credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington

WASHINGTON – Ben & Jerry's sued its parent company, Unilever, on Tuesday to block the sale of the ice cream maker's business interests in Israel to an Israeli company.

Ben & Jerry's had distanced itself from Unilever following Unilever’s decision to sell its business interests in Israel to Avi Zinger, the current Israeli licensee of Ben & Jerry’s. The sale was to pave the way for a resumption of sales of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream products in the West Bank. The move came roughly a year after the company announced that it would end sales of ice cream in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

"It’s a done deal. Unilever chose the morally correct, socially just and principled path when it ensured that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream would always continue to be produced and sold in Israel and the West Bank," said Zinger's attorney Alyza D. Lewin, who added that he "stands arm in arm with Unilever and commends Unilever’s decision to forcefully defend its agreement with him."

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan said the sale announced last week threatened to undermine Ben & Jerry's brand integrity, for which its board retained independence to protect when the Unilever conglomerate acquired it in 2000.

According to the complaint filed Tuesday, an injunction against transferring the business and related trademarks to Zinger and his American Quality Products company was essential to "protect the brand and social integrity Ben & Jerry's has spent decades building."

"We are aware of the Unilever announcement. While our parent company has taken this decision, we do not agree with it," Ben & Jerry's said in a statement following Unilever's initial announcement. "Unilever's arrangement means Ben & Jerry's in Israel will be owned and operated by AQP. Our company will no longer profit from Ben & Jerry's in Israel. Ben & Jerry's," it continued, adding "we continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry's values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory."

The Vermont-based ice cream company, which launched in 1978, has long been associated with progressive values, but had largely avoided supporting the Palestinian cause until last summer, when last year's flare-up between Israel and Hamas grabbed headlines around the world. In July 2021, the company released a statement saying that it believed it was “inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” and that while “Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement.”

In March, Zinger, the owner of the current Israel-based licensee, announced that his company was suing Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever in U.S. federal court. According to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, where Unilever has its U.S. headquarters, Zinger alleged that the decision by Ben & Jerry’s violated both U.S. and Israeli law. The suit sought an order permitting AQP to continue selling Ben & Jerry’s products unabated.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage

Flame and smoke rise during an Israeli air strike, amid Israel-Gaza fighting, in Gaza City August 6, 2022.

Israel Should End Gaza Operation Now, if It Can