Ben & Jerry's announcement to withdraw from Isreal 'Occupied Palestinian Territory' has come as a rebuke by a well-known brand against Israel’s policy of establishing its citizens on the war-won lands. However, there is a conflict of ideas with the parent company Unilever.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream has said it will stop selling its products in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested parts of East Jerusalem, saying the sales are “inconsistent with our values.”
The announcement comes as a high-profile rebuke by a well-known brand against Israel’s policy of establishing its citizens on the war-won lands. Experts say that such settlements are considered “illegal” and “obstacles to peace” under international law.
However, the company is now at odds with its parent company Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods conglomerate, according to a report by NBC News. Unilever has said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very complex and sensitive situation and it remains committed to its presence in Israel.
The statement from the ice cream maker, released by Unilever PLC said on Monday that it won’t renew its license agreement and it will make a different arrangement to stay in Israel. The license agreement will expire in December 2022.
As per reports, while Ben & Jerry’s wanted to completely move out of Israel and the occupied regions, Unilever released a statement saying it will continue to operate in Israel.
Ben & Jerry’s has a manufacturing facility and two shops south of Tel Aviv. However, the ice cream is sold in grocery stores in the Israeli settlements of the West Bank.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the statement read.
“While the ice cream will not be sold in the region, Ben & Jerry’s will stay in Israel through a different arrangement,” it added.
After Unilever’s announcement to continue operations in Israel, Ben & Jerry’s board of Unilever said the action is in violation of the spirit and letter of the acquisition agreement.
The Ben & Jerry's board said in a separate statement: "The statement released by Ben & Jerry's regarding its operation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (the OPT) does not reflect the position of the independent board, nor was it approved by the independent board. By taking a position and publishing a statement without the approval of the independent board on an issue directly related to Ben & Jerry's social mission and brand integrity, Unilever and its CEO at Ben & Jerry's are in violation of the spirit and the letter of the acquisition agreement."
The board's chair, Anuradha Mittal told NBC News, “I am saddened by the deceit of it.” This is not about Israel, but about the violation of the acquisition agreement that was meant to maintain the soul of the company."
When Unilever acquired the ice cream maker in 2000, the two signed an unusual acquisition agreement. Per the agreement, Unilever established an external board charged with overseeing Ben & Jerry’s culture and social mission.
According to a legally binding merger agreement, the board is not answerable to anyone but to itself, can nominate its own members, has the right to sue Unilever, and will exist in perpetuity.
After laying off some employees to ensure synergies with its own ice cream business, Unilever has largely given Ben & Jerry’s the autonomy to pursue its own agenda (as long as ice cream keeps coming).