(CNS News) – On July 5, Ben & Jerry’s filed a lawsuit against its parent company, Unilever, in an attempt to block the sale of their Israeli business to an Israel-based licensee. Ben & Jerry’s founders stopped selling their product in the occupied territories in July 2021. A new licensee would essentially reverse that policy and permit the ice cream to be sold in those areas.
“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,” reported Haaretz.
According to Unilever, “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.”
“The new business arrangement follows a Unilever review of Ben & Jerry’s in Israel after the brand and its independent Board announced last year its decision to discontinue sales of its ice cream in the West Bank,” said Unilever.
“Unilever has used the opportunity of the past year to listen to perspectives on this complex and sensitive matter and believes this is the best outcome for Ben & Jerry’s in Israel,” reads the statement. “The review included extensive consultation over several months, including with the Israeli Government.”
When they decided to stop selling their ice cream in the occupied territories, Ben & Jerry’s released a statement that said, “We believe that it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)… Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement.”
“We’re a values-led company with a long history of advocating for human rights, and economic and social justice,” they said. “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for our product to be present within an internationally recognized illegal occupation.”
The United Nations (UN) explains that when the British Mandate over Palestine expired, the U.N. General Assembly partitioned the territory into two states, one Arab and the other Jewish, which became known as Palestine and Israel, respectively. The Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip have been occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. The U.N. Security Council has on several occasions condemned Israel’s actions in Palestine and continues to advocate for a peaceful settlement in which both sides will live “side by side within secure and recognized borders.”
When Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, it granted the company and its independent Board “rights to take decisions about its social mission.” However, the company retained responsibility for operational and financial decisions and therefore has the right to sell Ben & Jerry’s business in Israel, allowing it to be sold again in the OPT, according to Unilever’s press release.
“Over the last decade, Unilever has invested more than 1 billion Shekels (around €250 million) in our business in Israel,” said the company. “We look forward to continuing to make a positive contribution to Israel’s economy and society for many decades to come, and hope that Israelis and Palestinians can reach a peaceful resolution of their conflict.”
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