In a massive blow to the pro-Israel lobby, Ben & Jerry's has doubled down on its decision to boycott business in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The ice cream giant distanced itself from the decision of its parent company, Unilever, which yesterday announced the sale of the company to an Israeli firm meaning that Ben and Jerry's will effectively be sold to the apartheid state.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and advocates of the occupation state presented Unilever's decision as a victory against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. "Today's victory is a victory for all those who know that the struggle against BDS is, first and foremost, a struggle for partnership and dialogue, and against discrimination and hate," claimed Lapid.
Advocates of Israel also leapt with joy. The Brandeis Centre said on Wednesday that Unilever's decision to sell its interests in Israel to Avi Zinger settles that lawsuit and marks a "major victory" against the Palestinian-led BDS. In Britain, the anti-Palestinian Board of Deputies of British Jews also celebrated the decision as though Ben and Jerry's had made a policy U-turn. The ice cream company stepped in quickly to dismiss the claim.
"We are aware of the Unilever announcement," said Ben and Jerry's on Twitter. "While our parent company has taken this decision, we do not agree with it."
We are aware of the Unilever announcement. While our parent company has taken this decision, we do not agree with it.
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) June 29, 2022
"We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry's values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory," said the founders of the famous brand, while doubling down on last year's pro-boycott decision.
Ben and Jerry's explained that an arrangement was made between its parent company, Unilever, and an Israeli firm operated by AQP, to bypass the ice cream company. It appears that Unilever went over Ben & Jerry's head in an effort to appease Israel and its influential lobby. According to The Electronic Intifada, when Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry's in 2000 it was under an agreement that the ice cream maker would have the autonomy to continue pursuing the socially conscious principles of its founders.
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Unilever announced on Tuesday that it had sold its Ben & Jerry's business interests in Israel to Avi Zinger, the owner of American Quality Products Ltd (AQP). "The new arrangement means Ben & Jerry's will be sold under its Hebrew and Arabic names throughout Israel and the West Bank under the full ownership of its current licensee," said the multinational conglomerate. However, it refused to say if Ben & Jerry's itself supports the deal and the continued use of its name by the Israeli company, albeit not in its globally understood English format.
Asked by The Electronic Intifada if Ben and Jerry's agreed to the arrangement, Unilever said, "In answer to your question on Ben and Jerry's and whether they support this decision, we wouldn't comment on internal conversations so again, you are best placed asking Ben & Jerry's directly for their response."
The parent company acknowledged that, "Ben & Jerry's and its independent board were granted rights to take decisions about its social mission, but Unilever reserved primary responsibility for financial and operational decisions and therefore has the right to enter this arrangement."