The Israeli franchise of Ben & Jerry’s is suing the Vermont-based company and its corporate owner, Unilever, for discrimination.
Franchise owner Avi Zinger said his company has suffered a dramatic loss of business and damage due to the US company’s decision to boycott Israeli communities in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.
The Israeli franchise, American Quality Products, said its production and distribution agreement was terminated after refusing to end its sales of the product in Judea and Samaria.
The franchise was set to file the suit Thursday in the US District Court of New Jersey, where the American headquarters of Ben & Jerry’s corporate parent, Unilever, is located.
The suit claims the termination of its franchise contract by the Vermont-based company violates US laws governing trade boycotts and relations with Israel.
“Leave ice cream out of the political debate,” Zinger said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
The Israeli franchise is seeking damages and a renewal of its license agreement with the Ben & Jerry’s company, whose independent board of directors decided not to renew its franchise agreement, which dates back to 1987, because Zinger refused to stop distributing the product over the so-called Green Line.
Company founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield insisted last year in an interview that the move was not a boycott of Israel, because the company intends to continue its sales within Israel’s 1948 borders.