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Unilever litigation with Ben & Jerry’s over Israel sales ‘resolved,’ company says

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

Unilever, the British conglomerate that owns Ben & Jerry’s, announced Thursday that the litigation with Ben & Jerry’s Independent Board has been resolved. Jews and Arabs living in Israel, including in Judea and Samaria, will now have unbridled access to the company’s ice cream once again.

“The litigation with Ben & Jerry’s Independent Board has been resolved,” Unilever said in a simple statement. 

No other details were revealed, though Avi Zinger, the owner of American Quality Products Ltd. and Ben & Jerry’s current licensee, said there were no changes being made to the agreement that he had struck with Unilever in June 2022. 

Under that agreement, the company sold its Ben & Jerry’s business interests in Israel to Zinger.

“Under the terms of Unilever’s acquisition agreement of Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, Ben & Jerry’s and its independent Board were granted rights to take decisions about its social mission, but Unilever reserved primary responsibility for financial and operational decisions and therefore has the right to enter this arrangement,” Unilever explained in a statement over the summer.

The move came after Ben & Jerry’s board of directors announced in July 2021 that it would no longer allow its products to be sold to Israelis in the West Bank, causing an uproar in the country. Several Jewish and pro-Israel organizations took action, signing petitions and making noise on social networks. Some American states that have laws against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement also began divesting pension funds or halting government contracts with Unilever.

The Foreign Ministry likewise entered negotiations with Unilever. 

“Unilever rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance,” the company said after it signed the deal with Zinger in June. “Antisemitism 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.”

For his part, Zinger said on Thursday,  “I am pleased that the litigation between Unilever and the independent Board of Ben & Jerry’s has been resolved. I look forward to continuing to produce and sell the great tasting Ben & Jerry’s ice cream under the Hebrew and Arabic trademarks throughout Israel and the West Bank long into the future.”

Maayan Hoffman is a veteran American-Israeli journalist and strategic communications consultant. She is Deputy CEO - Strategy & Innovation for the Jerusalem Post, where she also served as news editor, head of strategy and senior health analyst.

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