Ben & Jerry’s plans to stop selling ice cream in east Jerusalem and the West Bank have been canceled, the parent company Unilever announced Wednesday.
Unilever announced a new business agreement to make money throughout Israel, east Jerusalem and the West Bank, forcing Ben & Jerry’s to serve ice cream despite its call to protest Israel settlements in the West Bank, paying homage to the progressive boycott divestment sanctions (BDS) movement.
“The company has sold its Ben & Jerry’s business interests in Israel to Avi Zinger, the owner of American Quality Products Ltd (AQP), the current Israel-based licensee,” the company announced. “The new arrangement 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.
“Under the terms of Unilever’s acquisition agreement of Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, Ben & Jerry’s and its independent board were granted rights to take decisions about its social mission, but Unilever reserved primary responsibility for financial and operational decisions and therefore has the right to enter this arrangement.
“The new business arrangement follows a Unilever review of Ben & Jerry’s in Israel after the brand and its independent board announced last year its decision to discontinue sales of its ice cream in the West Bank.
“Unilever has used the opportunity of the past year to listen to perspectives on this complex and sensitive matter and believes this is the best outcome for Ben & Jerry’s in Israel. The review included extensive consultation over several months, including with the Israeli Government.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Orna Barbivai hailed Unilever’s move, The Jerusalem Post reported.
“The decision not only ensures that the Ben & Jerry’s factory and its diverse workforce will be protected, but that its customers, both Jewish and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian, will not be targeted by the de-legitimization campaign against Israel,” the two ministers told the Post in a joint statement.
“This is an important victory of values against discrimination and antisemitism that is at the heart of the campaign to boycott Israel.”
Unilever urged peace between Israel and the Palestinians in the release.
“Unilever is very proud of our business in Israel which supplies everyday household products to people across the country,” the company’s statement concluded. “Today, Unilever Israel employs around 2,000 people of diverse backgrounds, has four local manufacturing plants, and works with a network of around 2,000 local suppliers and service providers — helping to support the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Israelis across its value chain.
“Over the last decade, Unilever has invested more than 1 billion Shekels (around €250 million) [US $262,155,000] in our business in Israel. We look forward to continuing to make a positive contribution to Israel’s economy and society for many decades to come, and hope that Israelis and Palestinians can reach a peaceful resolution of their conflict.”
The American Jewish Committee welcomed the news in a statement to Newsmax.
“We commend Unilever for its decision to sell its Ben & Jerry’s business in Israel to a local company,” the AJC wrote in the statement. “This action by Unilever acknowledges that the decision by Ben & Jerry’s independent board to halt sales in the West Bank and Jerusalem and hand a win to the BDS movement was a profoundly bad idea.
“We also welcome Unilever’s statement that it unequivocally rejects any form of discrimination or intolerance and its recognition that antisemitism has no place in society, especially in Israel. Now, Ben & Jerry’s can go back to doing what it does best, without adding a scoop of misplaced social justice that left a sour taste.”