Unilever Tries to Save Face w/ Sale of Israeli Ben & Jerry’s Unit

British multinational corporation Unilever, parent company to progressive ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, has sold the ice cream maker’s operations in Israel to its longtime (30 years) licensee/manufacturer/distributor in the country, Avi Zinger.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

The Vermont-based ice cream company announced that it would no longer allow its products to be sold to Israelis in the West Bank last July. The boycott, in effect, was against all of Israel, because of local laws against location-based discrimination that would not have allowed Avi Zinger, the Israeli licensee, to limit his sales to one side of the Green Line.


Following Ben & Jerry’s announcement, Jewish and pro-Israel organizations took action, protesting the decision and trying to find legal ways around it. Several states that have laws meant to discourage BDS began the process of divesting or stopping to purchase products from Unilever…


Unilever’s acquisition agreement of Ben & Jerry’s allowed the ice cream company’s board to determine its “social mission,” while the parent company was responsible for its financial and operational decisions.


Unilever sought a solution that would reverse the Israel boycott while keeping its commitment to the Ben & Jerry’s board in Vermont.


The board is still free to maintain its political position against Israeli settlements, but it cannot stop Zinger from selling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream under the new agreement.

Ben & Jerry’s board had insisted that its ice cream be removed from the so-called “occupied territories” under the anti-Semitic “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement, advocated for by many progressives.

National Legal and Policy Center was first to expose the anti-Semitism and self-dealing of B&J’s board, its foundation, and its chairwoman, Anuradha Mittal:

In September NLPC filed a complaint with the IRS against the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation and Mittal over likely funneling of funds from the foundation to Mittal’s think tank.

NLPC has reported and tracked developments over the B&J’s/Israel boycott saga at its StopBenandJerrys.com website.

Statement from Paul Chesser, director of NLPC’s Corporate Integrity Project:

“Kudos to Avi Zinger for his victory after fighting back against Ben & Jerry’s anti-Semitism and discrimination, and for the rights of ALL his customers — both Jewish and Palestinian in all Israel’s territories — to have access to his products.”

“However, this does not let Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s off the hook, as the Vermont-based ice cream maker STILL endorses the anti-Semitic BDS movement in the rest of the world. This still has ramifications regarding, for example, laws of many states in the U.S. that forbid investment in companies that advocate BDS.”

“While this appears to solve the limited problem of Ben & Jerry’s availability under Israeli laws, Unilever still has a renegade, politically progressive board controlling the management of one of its popular products. This ‘autonomous’ board also has an ethical cloud hanging over it over potential self-dealing. The British parent company still has a major problem on its hands.”



Tags: anti-Semitism, Anuradha Mittal, Avi Zinger, Ben and Jerry's, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, Israel, Unilever