Ben & Jerry’s is suing its parent company after the sale of its Israel business to a local licensee, effectively circumventing the ice cream maker’s boycott of the country.
On June 28, the parent company, Unilever, sold the Israel business of Ben & Jerry’s to operator American Quality Products for an undisclosed sum to “ensure the ice cream stays available to all consumers.”
Ben & Jerry’s has sought to end sales of its products in the occupied West Bank and the annexed east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future independent state that includes the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — also captured by Israel in 1967.
NBC News first reported the company’s withdrawal from Israeli settlements last summer.
The latest suit, filed Tuesday in New York City, says the sale was not approved by Ben & Jerry’s independent board of directors. According to the filing, the company is seeking “to protect the brand and social integrity Ben & Jerry’s has spent decades building.”
CNBC reported Tuesday that a judge had already denied the ice cream maker’s application for a temporary restraining order but still ordered Unilever to show cause by July 14 for why a preliminary injunction against the sale should not be issued.
In a statement, Unilever said that “the deal has already closed” and that it would not comment on pending litigation. A Ben & Jerry’s representative did not respond to a request for comment.
Last week, Ben & Jerry’s tweeted about its opposition to the sale. It said it would no longer profit from Ben & Jerry’s in Israel.
“We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” it said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement the Israeli government issued after last week’s sale announcement: “The antisemites won’t defeat us.
“Even when it comes to ice cream. We will fight efforts to delegitimize Israel and the boycott movement in all its forms, whether it be economic, cultural, or philosophical.”
The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, modeled on the boycott campaign against apartheid South Africa, aims to bring economic pressure to bear on Israel over its military occupation of lands the Palestinians want for a future state.
Avi Zinger, the owner and CEO of American Quality Products, said in a statement that the sale by Unilever “guarantees the sale of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream made in Israel” throughout the country, “including Judea and Samaria” — the names some in Israel use to refer to the West Bank.
“The agreement we signed with Unilever is closed, approved, and final,” Zinger said.