Ben & Jerry's to be sold in illegal Israeli settlements against company's will following Unilever decision
Unilever announced Wednesday it has sold its Ben & Jerry's interests in Israel to a locally based licensee, clearing the way for renewed ice cream sales in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank against the will of the ice cream company.
In July last year, US-based Ben & Jerry's - which is owned by Unilever - announced it would no longer sell its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, in what was a massive win for the non-violent Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
It said selling ice cream in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories was "inconsistent with our values", although it said it planned to keep selling its products inside Israel.
The co-founders of the ice cream brand, Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, endorsed Ben & Jerry's decision to stop selling its ice cream in illegal Israeli settlements as "proud Jews".
Parent company Unilever said Wednesday it had "sold its Ben & Jerry's business interests in Israel to Avi Zinger... the current Israel-based licensee".
"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," it said in a statement.
Zinger had continued to produce the ice cream in his factory in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and to distribute it to the Israeli settlements, going against Ben & Jerry's decision.
"After long months of negotiations, we have managed to secure the production and sale of our beloved ice cream... in Israel and Judea and Samaria," Zinger said Wednesday, using an Israeli term for the occupied West Bank.
We are aware of the Unilever announcement. While our parent company has taken this decision, we do not agree with it.— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) June 29, 2022
In response to the move, Ben & Jerry's condemned Unilever's decision, saying it will not profit from sales in Israel.
"Unilever's arrangement means Ben & Jerry's in Israel will be owned and operated by AQP. Our company will no longer profit from Ben & Jerry's in Israel", the company said in a statement posted to Twitter.
"We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry's values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory", they added.
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, in settlements established in violation international law.
Palestinians and their supporters cheered the company's pullout from Israeli settlements last year.
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid welcomed Wednesday's decision, saying it "ensures that the Ben & Jerry's factory and its diverse workforce, will be protected", in a joint statement with Economy Minister Orna Barbivai.
"Anti-semitism will not defeat us, not even when it comes to ice cream," Lapid was quoted as saying. "We will fight delegitimisation and the BDS campaign in every arena."
Founded in the United States in 1978, Ben & Jerry's is known for championing progressive causes, including protecting the environment and promoting human rights.
Last year, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had said Israel "would use all tools at its disposal" to fight the Ben & Jerry's decision.
Unilever on Wednesday said it had "never expressed any support" for the BDS movement and had "no intention of changing that position".
The nonviolent BDS movement is inspired by the boycott campaign that targeted South Africa's apartheid regime and is seeking to end Israel's brutal occupation of the West Bank through peaceful, non-violent action.
Israel sees BDS as a strategic threat and accuses the movement of anti-Semitism - a claim that activists firmly deny, saying it is an attempt to discredit their cause.
A law was introduced by Israel in March 2017, barring access to the country for individuals and groups who have previously expressed support of the BDS movement.
Agencies contributed to this report.