Judea and Samaria boycott moving forward? Ben & Jerry’s sues Unilever

Left-wing ice cream brand sues Unilever in order to advance boycott of Judea and Samaria.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand, which famously declared its intention to ban the sales of its products in Judea and Samaria last year, filed a lawsuit against its parent company, Unilever, on Monday as part of an effort to move its boycott forward.

Widely hailed as a victory for the BDS movement, the ice cream brand, which has often adopted left-wing political positions, announced in July 2021 that it would no longer offer its products “in occupied Palestinian territory.”

The move led to a plunge in Unilever’s stock prices, equivalent to a loss estimated at some $26 billion, and several states divesting their pension funds from Unilever in line with anti-BDS laws, with those monies thought to total about an additional $1 billion.

In late June 2022, Unilever announced that it had reached an agreement with Avi Zinger, the manufacturer and distributor of Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel, to allow him to continue selling the brand’s offerings in Judea and Samaria.

Under the terms of the agreement with Unilever, Zinger will be allowed to use the Ben & Jerry’s log and branding on products as long as the products use Hebrew or Arabic, but not English text. Zinger has no geographic restrictions on sales. Zinger will also operate independently of Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s.

“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 on Twitter shortly after the announcement.

“Unilever’s arrangement means Ben and Jerry’s in Israel will be owned and operated by AQP [American Quality Products, Ltd]. Our company will no longer profit from Ben & Jerry’s in Israel,” the Vermont-based company 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.”

Although Ben & Jerry’s was purchased in its entirety decades ago by Unilever, the terms of the sale allow the ice cream brand’s board of directors to maintain its independence to take stands on hot button social and political issues.

The board is arguing in its lawsuit that Unilever is violating the purchase agreement by preventing the boycott of Judea and Samaria, and is demanding that Unilever withdraw the permission it granted for the products to be sold in the area.

Anuradha Mittal, the chair of Ben & Jerry’s board of directors, is a vocal critic of Israel who told NBC News in July 2021 that the original decision had been to boycott all of the Jewish State, beyond Judea and Samaria.

The London-based Unilever faced enormous pressure from U.S. states which have anti-BDS laws. Several began to divest their Unilever holdings or had announced their intention to do so.