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Israel: Ben & Jerry's will resume sales in illegal settlements, reversing boycott

Ice cream brand will operate in occupied West Bank under a new arrangement, following lawsuit by Israeli licensee
Ice cream for sale in a Ben & Jerry's store on 23 September 2021 in Miami, Florida (AFP)

Ice cream made by Ben & Jerry’s will continue to be sold in illegal Israeli settlements, effectively reversing a decision last year to end sales in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

In July last year, Ben & Jerry's said its commercial operations in illegally occupied territory were “inconsistent” with its values and that it would not be renewing its licence agreement when it expires at the end of next year.

Unilever, the parent company of the ice cream brand, announced on Wednesday that it had sold its business interests in Israel to Avi Zinger, the owner of Ben & Jerry’s Israel. 

Under this new arrangement, the ice cream will now be available across all of Israel and the occupied territories.

“Unilever has 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,” it said in a statement. 

“The review included extensive consultation over several months, including with the Israeli government.”

It added that it rejected antisemitism, and had never endorsed the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign

'BDS lost'

Ben & Jerry's ice cream cannot be sold in Israel using the name of Unilever or the original branding, as per the new arrangement. The Israeli licensee will instead sell the product with Hebrew and Arabic labelling.

The deal was struck as a result of a lawsuit against Ben & Jerry’s brought by Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law on behalf of Zinger. 

"BDS lost. I now have the right to sell Ben & Jerry’s using its Hebrew and Arabic name...forever,” Zinger said. 

“This is a victory for those who seek cooperation and coexistence, and a resounding defeat for discrimination.”

The news was welcomed by Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid, who said: "antisemitism will not defeat us, not even when it comes to ice cream."

The initial statement in July last year lacked details on how the boycott would work, and many pro-Palestine activists urged the company to go further. 

Days after the decision, Israel launched a special task force to apply “long-term pressure” on the ice cream company, according to classified foreign ministry cables. 

Ben and Jerry’s has been a vocal advocate of progressive causes such as Black Lives Matter but has long been accused of being silent on the issue of Palestinian rights.