Ben & Jerry’s Founders Accuse Unilever of Violating Merger Deal over Israel Sale

Ben & Jerry's
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

The woke founders of Ben & Jerry’s said this week that parent company Unilever is in violation of the merger deal signed over two decades ago, over its recent decision to allow the sale of its Israel-based operations so ice cream could continue to be sold to Jewish people living in the West Bank.

“That agreement gave authority over the social mission to the independent board of Ben & Jerry’s,” co-founder Ben Cohen said in a televised interview on Sunday on MSNBC. “Unilever has usurped their authority and reversed the decision that was made, and we can’t allow that to happen. We can’t sit idly by.”

The former hippies said their concern for Palestinians had no bearing on their feelings for Israeli Jews.

“If I care about the people in Palestine just as much as I care about the people in Israel, is that antisemitic?” Cohen said.

“The decision by the company not to sell ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories is consistent with the values that the company has had throughout its history of fighting for human rights and dignity,” Greenfield said.

In August, 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.

However, Ben & Jerry’s move prompted major financial windfalls for Unilever, with several U.S. states divesting all public funds from it.

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

“[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.

Unilever’s own Chief Executive Officer, Alan Jope, took a swipe at Ben & Jerry’s for singling out Israel as the hill to die on.

“There is plenty for Ben & Jerry’s to get their teeth into in their social justice mission without straying into geopolitics,” he said in a quarterly earnings review in July.

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, Cohen and 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.”



Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.