Ben & Jerry’s owner reverses West Bank ice cream ‘sales ban’

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Ben & Jerry’s owner reverses West Bank ice cream ‘sales ban’

Unilever sells its business interests in Israel, meaning Hebrew and Arabic-branded products will be sold in Israel and the West Bank

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

Tubs of ice-cream alongside a labourer working at Ben & Jerry's factory in Be'er Tuvia, Israel (Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)
Tubs of ice-cream alongside a labourer working at Ben & Jerry's factory in Be'er Tuvia, Israel (Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

The owner of Ben & Jerry’s has dramatically reversed a bid to end sales of its ice cream in West Bank settlements after it sold its own business interests in Israel.

Unilever announced on Wednesday that “full ownership” had been sold to American Quality Products Ltd, the company that currently licences the Ben & Jerry’s brand in Israel.

The arrangement means the ice cream will continue to be sold under its Hebrew and Arabic names throughout Israel and the West Bank as it does today, Unilever said.

Ben & Jerry’s was allowed to retain an independent board when it was acquired by Unilever in 2000.

Last year, the company’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield announced a withdrawal of its ice cream products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank because it was “inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).”

But Unilever’s move to sell its Israeli business interests effectively sidesteps this decision.

The global foodmaker said: “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.”

Cohen and Greenfield were accused of being antisemitic and capitulated to the Israel boycott movement BDS when they announced their decision in June 2021.

Among them was Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid, who called it a “disgraceful capitulation to antisemitism, to BDS, to all that is evil in the anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish discourse.”

But analysts had warned a withdrawal from West Bank supermarkets would never have been straightforward because Israeli firms usually do not distinguish over whether the shops they supply are based in a settlement.

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