The founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream blasted parent company Unilever for selling the Vermont-based firm’s operations in Israel to a local licensee — effectively circumventing a boycott of Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank.
“We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Ben & Jerry’s tweeted on Wednesday.
The official Twitter account of the ice cream maker founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield posted a short tweet thread on Wednesday — hours after Unilever announced its agreement to sell Ben & Jerry’s to Avi Zinger of American Quality Products.
AQP is the Israeli company that owned the licensing agreement to exclusively sell Ben & Jerry’s in Israel. It paid an undisclosed sum of money to Unilever, effectively ending a dispute that included a federal lawsuit.
Zinger announced on Wednesday that he will resume sales of the Ben & Jerry’s brand in both Hebrew and Arabic throughout Israel proper as well as the West Bank territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
“We are aware of the Unilever announcement,” Ben & Jerry’s tweeted on Wednesday.
“While our parent company has taken this decision, we do not agree with it.”
Ben & Jerry’s continued: “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.”
The Unilever announcement brings to an end the saga that began last year when Ben & Jerry’s said that it would no longer offer its products to consumers in Israeli settlements built on occupied land.
Unilever, the Dutch-British conglomerate whose properties include big-name brands such as Hellmann’s, Dove, Lipton, and Breyers, said at the time that it had no legal right to force Ben & Jerry’s to reverse course.
When Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry’s more than 20 years ago in a deal valued at $326 million, the Vermont-based ice cream maker insisted that its board would have autonomy on matters related to social and political issues.
But Unilever maintained the power to sell parts of the business as it deemed fit.
The boycott by Ben & Jerry’s created a public relations headache for Unilever as pro-Israel politicians in the US announced economic retaliatory measures.
The states of New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Texas have divested a combined $1 billion in pension fund investments from Unilever, concluding Ben & Jerry’s action violated their anti-boycott laws.
The Israeli government hailed the decision by Unilever to sell the brand to Zinger as a “victory over anti-Semites” on Wednesday.
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