The hate-filled saga of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream continues this week, with the Vermont-based company disavowing any part in the sale of its frozen dessert in Israel.
“Without the consent of Ben & Jerry’s Independent Board, Unilever has sold trademark rights to the Hebrew and Arabic language versions of the Ben & Jerry’s name to Blue & White Ice Cream Ltd,” the company – a subsidiary of Unilever – said Tuesday in a statement.
“Any products sold by Blue & White Ice Cream Ltd are uniquely its own and should not be confused with products produced and distributed by Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc,” the board added, saying it has “no ownership of, affiliation with, or economic interest in Blue & White Ice Cream Ltd.”
The US brand emphasized “the sale of products bearing any Ben & Jerry’s insignia in the occupied Palestinian territory is against our values. Such sales are inconsistent with international law, fundamental human rights and Ben & Jerry’s social mission,” according to The Electronic Intifada.
It’s not clear how the sale of a legally-licensed ice cream product could be “inconsistent with international law [and] fundamental human rights.”
Blue & White Ice Cream Ltd is owned by former Ben & Jerry’s franchisee Avi Zinger. Unilever transferred its trademark rights to Zinger after a nasty struggle with the company’s antisemitic independent board, which supports the international Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) economic war on Israel.
The company terminated its decades-long licensing agreement with Zinger after he refused to cease distribution of the product in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Unilever subsequently announced its sale of the brand and trademark rights in Israel to Blue & White Ice Cream Ltd following a successful counter-pressure campaign that included divestment from Unilever by multiple states across the US.
The Vermont-based company hit back in July 2022 with a lawsuit in New York federal district court, claiming the transfer of its trademark and brand rights to the Israeli company violated the agreement signed with Unilever upon its acquisition of the company in 2000.
Mediation efforts during the summer failed to resolve the issue, and at the end of September, the company filed an amended complaint, adding more allegations, such as misconduct by Unilever and claiming the corporate parent refused to pay directors their due compensation.
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. said Unilever’s behavior was “particularly egregious given the security threats that board members have faced, leaving individual Board members to pay for their own security measures – including relocation – while not being compensated,” the company claimed, without specifying the nature of the threats.
The company also claimed Unilever secretly transferred its trademark rights to Zinger without informing or consulting its independent board – a violation of its 2000 acquisition agreement.
Notably, the company said it began receiving complaints from pro-Palestinian Authority activists as far back as 2013, with pressure continuing to grow “regarding the human rights implications of Ben & Jerry’s continued sales in the West Bank,” including from company managers and staff.
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. has asked the court to stop Unilever from carrying out any further action that would facilitate ice cream sales using its trademarks in Israel, to return ownership of all the rights, and to pay damages and legal costs for its lawsuit.