Unilever settles Ben & Jerry’s lawsuit over sales in occupied Palestinian territory

In July last year, Ben & Jerry's said it would stop its commercial operations in the occupied West Bank because they were 'inconsistent' with its values (AFP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  December 16, 2022

Ben & Jerry’s sued its parent company after Unilever announced sale of company’s business interests in Israel to businessman Avi Zinger.

Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, has announced that it has achieved a settlement in the lawsuit over the ice cream maker’s sales in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a short, one-sentence statement on Thursday, Unilever said: “Unilever is pleased to announce that the litigation with Ben & Jerry’s Independent Board has been resolved.”

Middle East Eye reached out to Ben & Jerry’s for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

In July of last year, Ben & Jerry’s said it would stop its commercial operations in the occupied West Bank because they were “inconsistent” with its values.

The move was met with fierce opposition from Israeli lawmakers, as well as American lawmakers and state governments who threatened to pull their investments in Unilever.

Following the backlash, Unilever announced it would sell Ben & Jerry’s business interests in Israel to businessman Avi Zinger, the current Israeli licensee of the ice cream brand. The sale would effectively reverse a decision made by the company to stop operating in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

To stop this from happening, Ben & Jerry filed a lawsuit against Unilever to block the sale of its business interests in Israel.

“Ben & Jerry’s is an American institution. An institution that is known for the principled, progressive stances it takes on various societal issues, both domestically and internationally,” the company had said in its court filing.

“This social integrity is as important to Ben & Jerry’s as the ice cream it makes, which it began producing in 1978.” 

While Ben & Jerry’s has not made a statement on the settlement announcement on Thursday, the Electronic Intifada reported that Israel was no longer listed on the company’s website of places where it operates. 

And under the list of countries it operates in was a disclaimer: “Unilever has sold trademark rights to the Hebrew and Arabic language versions of the Ben & Jerry’s name to Blue & White Ice-Cream Ltd.”

The disclaimer added that “Blue & White Ice-Cream Ltd. is a completely separate and distinct entity from Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc” and that Ben & Jerry’s “has no ownership of or economic interest” that company.

Last month, Ben & Jerry’s issued a scathing criticism of the sale, saying that it has nothing to do with the Israeli company.

“Ben & Jerry’s position is clear: the sale of products bearing any Ben & Jerry’s insignia in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is against our values. Such sales are inconsistent with international law, fundamental human rights, and Ben & Jerry’s social mission,” it said.