Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, has sold the ice cream company’s business interests in Israel to an Israeli company, caving to pressure over a planned ban on sales in illegal Israeli settlements.
Ben & Jerry’s announced last year that it would cease selling its product in Occupied Palestinian Territories, referencing Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but planned to continue its operations in Israel. In response, Israeli officials launched a pressure campaign against the ice cream company, which included urging US governors to enforce state laws against boycotting Israel.
Unilever sold Ben & Jerry’s business interests in Israel to the American Quality Products (AQP), which also received the exclusive rights to the brand’s logo in Hebrew and Arabic. But AQP will have to cease using English branding. Now, AQP will continue selling ice cream in Israeli settlements after the end of this year, when Ben & Jerry’s ban was set to take effect.
Israeli officials have declared victory against Ben & Jerry’s, although it’s clear that Unilever went over the ice cream company’s head to make the deal. ” On Twitter, Ben & Jerry’s said it didn’t agree with the decision. “We are aware of the Unilever announcement. While our parent company has taken this decision, we do not agree with it,” the company said. “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.”
Israeli officials celebrated the sale, which came after several US states took action against Unilever over the ban. Over 30 US states have laws on the books against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that calls for global boycotts to pressure Israel over its crimes against the Palestinians.
Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Arizona, Florida, and Texas all took action against Unilever by moving to divest state pension funds from the British conglomerate. Under the anti-BDS laws, the states can divest from companies that boycott Israel, although Ben & Jerry’s decision wasn’t a full boycott since it only applied to Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.