Ben & Jerry’s Sues Parent Company After Woke Founders Boycott Israel

An Israeli flag is set atop a delivery truck outside US ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry's fact

Ben & Jerry’s took its parent company Unilever to a federal court in New York on Monday for the first hearing in its quest to stop the multinational from allowing its ice cream to be sold in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Ben & Jerry’s sued Unilever after the consumer goods company announced it was selling the Israeli franchise to local licensee, Avi Zinger.

The announcement came almost a year after Ben & Jerry’s said it would stop the sale of ice cream in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, for being “inconsistent” with its values.

A month later, Arizona became the first state to divest all public funds — amounting to more than $140 million – from Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever over what it deemed was an “anti-Semitic” move, and several other states followed suit soon after.

Michael Ashner, an investor who is very active in the fight against the Ben & Jerry’s boycott, told the Haaretz daily that Ben & Jerry’s refusal to sell ice cream in parts of Israel constituted an “existential threat.”

A view of the entrance of the ice-cream shop inside the Ben & Jerry's factory in Be'er Tuvia in southern Israel, on July 21, 2021. - Ben & Jerry's announced that it will stop selling ice cream in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories since it was "inconsistent with our values", although it said it planned to keep selling its products in Israel. The West Bank and East Jerusalem have been under Israeli control since 1967. Roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, in communities widely regarded as illegal under international law, alongside some 2.8 million Palestinians. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP) (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

A view of the entrance of the ice cream shop inside the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Be’er Tuvia in southern Israel, on July 21, 2021.(EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)

“[We] saw it was an existential threat to Israel,” he said. “If a multinational corporation can be pressured into divesting assets in the State of Israel, it’s the start of a slippery slope. We could not allow that to proceed.”

Unilever walked back the boycott, and announced the sale to Zinger. As its subsidiary, it is almost unprecedented that Ben & Jerry’s would react by suing Unilever, according to legal sources quoted in the Wall Street Journal.

Unilever retaliated by denying salaries to Ben & Jerry’s independent board members – a move, the board members said, was  a “pressure tactic” to dismiss the case.

The UK-based company, which bought Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 for $326 million, maintains it can decide where the ice cream is sold but the Cherry Garcia makers argue that selling the local Israeli business to Zinger violates the terms of the takeover deal.

During Unilever’s quarterly earnings call last month, Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope took a swipe at Ben & Jerry’s: “There is plenty for Ben & Jerry’s to get their teeth into in their social justice mission without straying into geopolitics.”

The social justice warriors at the helm of the ice cream giant have a long record of leveraging the brand for their political activism, with the release of new flavors for a range of causes du jour from climate change, same sex marriage, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter.

In an interview last year, ice cream co-founders and former hippies Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were asked why the decision to boycott a state over its policies never stretched to Georgia and Texas, despite their vocal opposition to those states’ abortion and voting rights laws.

“Why do you still sell ice cream in Georgia? Texas?” McCammond asked.

Clearly stumped, Cohen, a Bernie Sanders supporter, shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know,” he said, laughing.

“You ask a really good question and I think I’d have to sit down and think about it for a bit.”


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