Ben & Jerry’s Say Unilever Violated Merger Deal When Selling to Israeli Licensee - The Jewish Voice
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Ben & Jerry’s Say Unilever Violated Merger Deal When Selling to Israeli Licensee

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By: INN Staff

The founders of ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s say that parent company Unilever is in violation of the 2000 merger deal over its sale of Ben & Jerry’s business in Israel to a local licensee who could sell their products in Judea and Samaria, Reuters reports.

One of the founders, Ben Cohen, said in an interview on MSNBC on Sunday, “That agreement gave authority over the social mission to the independent board of Ben & Jerry’s. 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.”

Partner Jerry Greenfield said the agreement is legally binding and needs to be adhered to, according to a report on the Israel National News web site.

Unilever, in contrast, has said it retained the right to make operational decisions for Ben & Jerry’s, and that the sale could not be undone because it has irrevocably closed, the INN report indicated.

On July 5, Ben & Jerry’s sued Unilever in a bid to block the sale of the Israeli business to Israeli licensee Avi Zinger, saying Unilever had guaranteed Ben & Jerry’s the right to protect its brand when buying the company in 2000.

The sale would allow Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in Judea and Samaria, circumventing Ben & Jerry’s controversial boycott of Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria, which caused an uproar last year, as was reported by INN.

In late August, however, the court rejected Ben & Jerry’s request for an injunction to stop the sale.

INN reported that District Judge Andrew Carter ruled that Ben & Jerry’s had not proven that its brand would suffer significant harm or that customers would be confused by the continued sale of the ice cream in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and therefore no injunction was warranted.

Ben & Jerry’s lawyer Shahmeer Halepota said in court that Zinger could produce new products with the “exact opposite stance,” causing consumer confusion, as was reported by INN,

“Instead of Peace Pops, you could make ‘Tank Pops,'” Halepota said, and shoppers would see both walking down a grocery store aisle.

INN also reported that Judge Carter was dismissive of such concerns in a hearing earlier this month, saying: “I don’t hear anything saying that there is anything imminent. It doesn’t seem … anything’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks.”

Ben & Jerry’s announced earlier this month in a letter filed in federal court in Manhattan and quoted by Reuters, that it said it plans to file an amended complaint by September 27, with Unilever’s response due by November 1.

Unilever has agreed to the timetable, the letter said. Its response to Ben & Jerry’s original complaint had been due in early September, according to the INN report.

In the months following the ice cream maker’s July 2021 announcement of the Judea and Samaria boycott, multiple states divested from Unilever, including New York, Florida, New Jersey, Arizona, Texas and Iowa.

INN also reported that in the middle of August of this year Israeli students sent a letter to Ben & Jerry’s, accusing the ice cream maker of “illegally” occupying tribal land in Vermont that belonged to an Abenaki Native American tribe.

The letter, addressed to Ben & Jerry’s board chair Anuradha Mittal, which was signed by over 1,000 Israeli students and academics associated with Students for Justice in America, slammed Ben & Jerry’s for hypocritically boycotting Judea and Samaria, INN reported.


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