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Following Ben & Jerry’s boycott, parent company releases premium ice cream to Israeli licensee

Unilever’s sale of the Israel-based Ben & Jerry’s operations to American Quality Products reopens access to the ice cream to all Israelis and Palestinians

Workers at the Ben & Jerry's factory near Kiryat Malakhi, July 21, 2021. (Photo: Flash90)

Here’s the scoop: The Ben & Jerry’s unlawful termination of its business obligations in Israel, with a boycott of the Jewish state, has been settled by a federal lawsuit in favor of the brand’s Israeli licensee, Avi Zinger.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law filed the lawsuit against the ice cream company and its parent, Unilever, on behalf of Zinger, who both manufactures the premium pints and distributes them in all of Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza. 

With the lawsuit finding Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Israel unlawful, Unilever announced on Wednesday the sale of the brand’s business interests in Israel to Zinger’s company, American Quality Products, for an undisclosed amount. 

“The new arrangement means Ben & Jerry’s will be sold under its Hebrew and Arabic names throughout Israel and the West Bank under the full ownership of its current licensee,” Unilever said in a statement.

Ben & Jerry’s responded coolly to Unilever’s decision on social media.

“While our parent company has taken this decision, we do not agree with it,” they stated. “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.”

Another tweet added, “We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” 

This was an echo of the Vermont-based company’s boycott announcement in July 2021. At the time, they stated, “We … hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.” 

The 2021 decision sent shockwaves through Israel and the United States, activating the laws of several states that have characterized Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions actions as unlawful. 

Florida, Texas, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Colorado and others divested hundreds of millions of dollars in pension funds from Unilever, because the move violated their anti-boycott laws. 

Unilever’s Israel boycott is said to have cost the company $26 billion, according to Channel 12 News. The company’s stock has dropped by about 20%, in part as a result of the announcement last summer. 

In an announcement on Wednesday, the parent company affirmed their stance on the boycott of Israel’s marketplace: ”Unilever rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance.” 

“Anti-Semitism has no place in any society. We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position,” it stated. 

Several Jewish groups thanked the parent company on the decision that marked the end of the boycott. 

“We commend Unilever for finally doing the right thing and putting an end to the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and anti-peace boycott by extremists on Ben & Jerry’s Board,” said a statement by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. 

The Israeli-American Coalition for Action noted that the Unilever decision represents a major victory over the BDS movement that seeks to destroy the Jewish state. IAC for Action thanked the state governors and treasurers across the U.S. who “boldly enforced local laws against boycotting Israel, helping convince Unilever to reverse the Ben & Jerry’s board action targeting Israel.”

Earlier this month, Ben & Jerry’s sparked a new controversy when a Jewish Insider report revealed that the company requires new employees to watch four lectures about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of their onboarding process. 

One of the lectures is delivered by Omar Shakir, a Human Rights Watch pro-Palestinian activist who has been expelled from Israel for his support of the BDS movement. 

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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