Unilever sells local Ben & Jerry’s business to Israeli company | Israelo-Palestinian conflict
Multinational consumer goods company Unilever has sold its Ben & Jerry’s ice cream business in Israel to its local licensee for an undisclosed sum, after the American brand announced last year that it would stop selling products in Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, claiming it was “incompatible” with its values.
Under the new agreement, announced Wednesday, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will be available to all consumers in Israel and the occupied West Bank, including Jewish settlements.
Ben & Jerry’s disagreed with its parent company’s decision, saying that although the company no longer profits from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sold in the illegally occupied territories, their position had not changed.
“We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the company said on Twitter.
We are aware of Unilever’s announcement. Although our parent company made this decision, we do not endorse it.
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) June 29, 2022
Ben & Jerry’s Jewish founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield no longer manage the brand but are well known for their commitment to social justice, with strong support recently expressed for the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ rights and campaign finance reform.
The episode highlighted the challenges faced by mainstream brands that have backed progressive causes and also tried to take a stand on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, like San Francisco-based Airbnb, which canceled in 2019 its decision to remove Israeli settlements from the list.
The international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to end international support for Israel‘s occupation of Palestinian territory and advocates for freedom, justice and equality for Palestinians, as well as for Israel to consistent with international law.
However, Israel says such boycotts are discriminatory and anti-Semitic.
On Wednesday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the Ben & Jerry’s deal a “great victory.”
“We will fight delegitimization and the BDS campaign in all areas, whether in the public square, in the economic sphere or in the moral realm,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement.
Israel last year condemned the sales boycott as “morally wrong” and said Unilever would face “serious consequences”. The consumer goods giant defended Ben & Jerry’s autonomy, but said it was “fully committed” to Israel and would find a solution by the end of this year.
The new owner is Avi Zinger, longtime Israeli licensee of the brand, owner of American Quality Products. Zinger had sued Ben & Jerry’s after its ruling in the occupied West Bank, claiming the company unlawfully severed their 34-year relationship.
“The new agreement 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.
The decision to sell Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to a local licensee sparked strong reactions.
“Ben & Jerry’s return to Israeli settlements, which were built on Palestinian land, exposes it to international legal liability and its name will be blacklisted by the United Nations for companies operating in the settlements,” it said. Wasel Abu Yussef of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said the deal was intended to undermine the “principled decision” to stop selling ice cream in Israeli settlements.
“What comes next may look and taste similar, but, without Ben & Jerry’s recognized social justice values, it’s just a pint of ice cream,” he said in a statement.
Sari Bashi, program director of Human Rights Watch, said the decision “contributes to continuing discrimination and illegal land grabbing” against Palestinians.
Hi Unilever! The sale of ice cream in Israeli-only settlements in the occupied West Bank helps fuel discrimination and illegal land grabbing. You are not promoting peace. You are contributing to serious abuses including the crime against humanity of apartheid https://t.co/fSQ7HMTW98
— Sari Bashi (@saribashi) June 29, 2022
Officials in at least six US states had restricted or sold Unilever stock or bonds in protest at Ben & Jerry’s decision, including New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the Comptroller of the State of Texas Glenn Hegar and Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee. Representatives of the three have now said they will review Unilever’s decision.
Billionaire activist investor Nelson Peltz, who will join Unilever’s board of directors next month, was involved in discussions to reach the resolution, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization human rights group that backed the deal. Peltz is the chairman of the center’s board of directors.
Peltz met with Unilever CEO Alan Jope in September to discuss the situation before Trian Partners, the investment fund managed by Peltz, bought shares, a person familiar with the matter said.
Trian Partners welcomed the new arrangement in a statement, saying “respect and tolerance prevailed”.
Unilever had previously said it did not support the BDS movement and reiterated that position in a statement on Wednesday.
BDS supporters say the movement is necessary because political leaders have failed to end what the movement describes as “Israel’s colonialism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid practices”.
However, BDS says it targets institutions because of their complicity in human rights abuses and explicitly opposes all forms of racism, but does not target individuals because of their ethnicity or ethnicity. their nationality. Its goal is to end Israel’s entrenched system of racial discrimination and ethnic privilege.