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Ben & Jerry’s sues to keep ice cream out of Israel

The Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company this week filed a U.S. federal lawsuit against its parent company Unilever, in a bid to torpedo an agreement that would permit ongoing sales in Judea and Samaria, according to media reports.

Unilever’s deal with Avi Zinger, the owner of American Quality Products Ltd., gave him total independence to manufacture and continue selling ice cream in Judea and Samaria with the Ben & Jerry’s logos appearing only in Hebrew and Arabic and not English.

The lawsuit claims that Unilever breached its deal with Ben & Jerry’s by circumventing the latter corporation’s July 2021 board decision to halt distribution in what it erroneously termed “occupied Palestinian territory.” The move drew widespread condemnation in Israel, including from then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett who described it as a “moral mistake.”

Israel retains responsibility for security and some civil duties in areas of the Palestinian Authority by mutual agreement outlined in the Oslo Accords negotiated by former President Bill Clinton, Israel and the PA.

The boycott was slated to begin later this year when contracts with Zinger were set to expire.

According to Reuters, the much-hyped ice cream maker is now seeking an injunction against Unilever’s move in order to “protect the brand and social integrity Ben & Jerry’s has spent decades building.” Its board voted 5-2 to sue, with two Unilever appointees dissenting, the report said.

The court reportedly denied a Ben & Jerry’s request for a temporary restraining order to freeze the agreement with Zinger.

After concluding the deal, Unilever released a statement saying that it had “used the opportunity of the past year to listen to perspectives on this complex and sensitive matter and believes this is the best outcome for Ben & Jerry’s in Israel. The review included extensive consultation over several months, including with the Israeli government.

““Unilever rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance. Anti-Semitism has no place in any society,” the statement added.