ISRAEL- British multinational consumer goods company, Unilever, has divested the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream business in Israel to its local licensee, Avi Zinger, owner of American Quality Products, for an undisclosed sum.
This move is after its ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet arm announced last year that it would stop marketing products in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, saying it was “inconsistent” with its values.
Unilever said it has reached a licensing agreement with the local licensee which will sustain the sales of the frozen dessert range.
Under the new arrangement, Unilever said, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will be available to all consumers in Israel and the occupied West Bank, including in Jewish settlements.
However, Ben & Jerry’s has expressed its disagreement with its parent company’s decision, saying that, despite the company no longer profiting from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sold in illegally-occupied territories, its position had not changed.
“We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the company said on Twitter.
The move is perceived to cool off a year-long spat with the Israeli authorities that began shortly after the FMCG giant announced its decision to stop selling its classic brand in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Unilever has publicly expressed that marketing products in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories are “inconsistent” with its values.
However, it has made clear that it has “never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position.”
The company stated further noted that it rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance, adding that antisemitism had no place in any society.
The decision to sell Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to the local licensee has led to heated reactions as many argue that the call is necessary while others say it helps sustain discrimination and unlawful land grabs.
Officials in at least six US states had restricted or sold Unilever stock or bonds to protest Ben & Jerry’s decision, among them New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar, and Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee, according to Aljazeera.
The dispossession succeeds an announcement Unilever made earlier this year that confirmed a major restructure that could potentially see the offloading of some of its global food brands, as the company narrows to focus on its ice cream and personal care business segments.
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