London – Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, announced on Wednesday that it has sold the Ben & Jerry’s brand in ‘Israel’ to its Israeli licensee, after the Vermont-based firm said last year that it would stop selling products in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, saying it was “inconsistent” with its values.
On Wednesday, Unilever announced that it had “sold its Ben & Jerry’s business interests in Israel to Avi Zinger, the owner of American Quality Products Ltd (AQP),” the current Israeli licensee for Ben & Jerry’s.
Zinger had sued Ben & Jerry’s after its decision in the occupied West Bank, claiming the company illegally severed their 34-year relationship.
With the new arrangement, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will be sold to all consumers in ‘Israel’ and the occupied West Bank, including in illegal Israeli settlements.
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream also cannot be sold in ‘Israel’ using the name of Unilever or the original branding, as per the new arrangement. The Israeli licensee will instead sell the product with Hebrew and Arabic labelling.
“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,” it said in a statement.
“The review included extensive consultation over several months, including with the Israeli government.”
It added that it rejected antisemitism, and had never endorsed the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign: “We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position.”
“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,” Unilever added.
The parent company also acknowledges that “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 well-known American firm announced last year in July that it will no longer sell its products in occupied Palestinian territories, sparking backlash including divestments by at least six U.S. pension funds.
The company said in a statement that “it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).”
The decision was one of the highest-profile boycotts by a well-known brand of Israel’s illegal settlements, which are considered as illegal under international law.
The firm, known for its progressive activities, was silent on social media since last May, when ‘Israel’ were bombarding the besieged Gaza strip, killing over 250 Palestinians, most of them were children and women.