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Ben & Jerry’s sues Unilever to try and block sale of Israeli branch

Jerusalem24 – Ben & Jerry’s filed a lawsuit yesterday against parent company Unilever after the latter sold its Israeli Ben & Jerry’s branch to local licensee Avi Zinger, going against the decision of Ben & Jerry’s independent board to stop selling the ice cream in illegal Israeli settlements.

Ben & Jerry’s announced in July 2021 that its ice cream would no longer be sold in Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine after its current license agreement expired at the end of 2022.

After a year-long campaign spearheaded by a “special task force” commissioned by the Israeli government to pressure Unilever into reversing Ben & Jerry’s decision, Unilever announced the sale to Zinger last Wednesday. Zinger is the owner of American Quality Products Ltd (AQP) and will continue to sell Ben & Jerry’s products under its Hebrew and Arabic name across occupied Palestine.

Ben & Jerry’s took to Twitter on 29 June to reiterate their own position regarding the boycott: “We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

“We are aware of the Unilever announcement. While our parent company has taken this decision, we do not agree with it.”

In the lawsuit filed yesterday in the US District Court of Manhattan, Ben & Jerry’s said their founders “insisted on the inclusion of explicit language to ensure the brand’s integrity was not diluted” when the company was taken over by Unilever in 2000, and that the sale to AQP violates the terms of their merger.

As per the terms of acquisition, Ben & Jerry’s retained an independent board which oversaw ethical and social decisions while business decisions fell under the purview of Unilever.

According to Bloomberg, the independent board voted 5-2 on 1 July to sue, with the two Unilever-appointed members voting no.

Unilever told Bloomberg they don’t comment on pending litigation but shared a statement in which they said they had the right to enter the arrangement with Zinger.

“The deal has already closed,” the statement said.

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