US – Ben & Jerry’s has not backed down in the fight for the Israeli West Bank operations that it claimed were ‘inconsistent’ with its progressive values and social mission.
After losing in the first lawsuit, the ice cream maker plans to amend the verdict that challenged the sale of its ice cream business in Israel by its parent company Unilever.
In a letter filed to federal court in Manhattan, Ben & Jerry’s said it plans to file an amended complaint by Sept.27, with Unilever’s response due by Nov.1.
Unilever has agreed to the timetable, the letter noted while its response to Ben & Jerry’s original complaint had been due on Tuesday.
Ben & Jerry’s board noted that it has a responsibility to continue fighting the sale in court to protect its social mission, a spokesperson told Bloomberg in a statement.
“We will not allow our principles to be compromised for our parent company’s profits. Unilever’s feigned ignorance of the independent board’s authority over Ben & Jerry’s social mission stands in stark contrast with the explicit language of the merger agreement,” Ben & Jerry’s attorney, Shahmeer Halepota, said in an emailed statement.
The amendment was welcomed by Ahmad Abuznaid, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, who said they “firmly supported” the ice cream maker’s board.
He stated: “Committing to social justice means justice for all, including the Palestinian people. Ben & Jerry’s made a principled decision not to profit from illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, and now Unilever is attempting to subvert that.”
In July 2022, Ben & Jerry’s sued Unilever over its decision to sell the ice cream brand’s business in Israel to a local licensee.
Ben & Jerry’s wanted the court to stop Unilever from violating the terms of its merger and shareholders agreement “to preserve the status quo and protect the brand and social integrity Ben & Jerry’s has spent decades building.”
Similarly, Ben & Jerry’s said Unilever’s decision “was made without the consent of Ben & Jerry’s Independent Board of Directors, the entity contractually empowered with protecting Ben & Jerry’s brand.”
However, a month later, the US District Court in Manhattan found the ice cream company had “failed to demonstrate” that the move to sell the goods in the Israeli-occupied settlements caused it “irreparable harm.”
Many analysts have commented that the decision to pull Ben & Jerry’s from Israel was a significant play by Unilever on account that in July last year, the Vermont-based company announced it would no longer sell its ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian territories saying it was “inconsistent” with its values.
That decision prompted a backlash against Unilever, including divestments by pension funds from the consumer goods company and accusations of antisemitism by some Jewish groups.
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