Unilever has sold its Ben & Jerry’s division in Israel to its local franchisees, who will continue to sell products under the well-known brand name to customers in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories.
The Israeli government on Wednesday hailed the move as a “victory over anti-Semitism” – the founders of the Vermont-based ice cream giant announced they would no longer sell popular products to customers in Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
“The anti-Semitism will not defeat us,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement. “Even when it comes to ice cream. We will fight efforts to illegalize Israel and the boycott movement in all its forms, whether economic, cultural or philosophical.”
Avi Zinger, owner of American Quality Products, an Israeli company that had a licensing agreement to sell Ben & Jerry’s exclusively in Israel, paid Unilever an undisclosed amount.
Zinger announced on Wednesday that it would resume sales of the Ben & Jerry’s brand in both Hebrew and Arabic throughout Israel as well as Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.
The Israeli government makes no legal distinction between the West Bank and Jewish settlements in Israel. The international community does not recognize Israel’s claims to the lands captured during the Six-Day War.
Earlier this year, Zinger filed suit against Ben & Jerry’s in federal court after the company refused to renew its license because it would not comply with its policy of prohibiting ice cream sales in Israeli settlements. .
Ben & Jerry’s Jewish co-founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, sold their well-known company to Unilever in 2000 for $326 million.
Under the terms of the acquisition agreement, Ben & Jerry’s had the autonomy to make decisions about its social mission.
But a spokesperson for Unilever told The Post that the ice cream maker’s corporate parent had the discretion to make decisions about restructuring or selling the business.
The post has sought comment from Ben & Jerry’s as well as Cohen and Greenfield.
Ben & Jerry’s announced last year that it would no longer sell its products in the West Bank and parts of disputed East Jerusalem when its current licensing agreement expires at the end of 2022.
Since then, the states of New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Texas have all made a combined $1 billion in pension fund investments from parent company Unilever, concluding that Ben & Jerry’s actions dented their anti-boycott. violated the laws.
Cohen and Greenfield defended the company’s decision to end sales in the region in a New York Times editorial last July, writing that Israel was one of the first countries the company expanded to internationally.
The founder, who called himself a “proud Jew”, said that “it is possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies” just as he has “opposed policies in the US government.”