Photo Credit: Eitan Elhadaz/TPS
The Ben & Jerry's factory in Be’er Tuvia, near Kiryat Malachi.

Ben & Jerry’s Israel’s fight against the demand made by the global owner of the brand to boycott Judea and Samaria entered a new phase when it submitted an official complaint with Israel’s Competition Authority saying that the conduct of the global brand constitutes a serious violation of the terms of the merger between them and Unilever.

Unilever, which owns the global Ben & Jerry’s, stated in July that it was ending sales in Israel as “we believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

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“We have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year,” the company said.

Avi Zinger, the Israeli license owner, refused Ben and Jerry’s demand to withdraw his sales from Judea and Samaria.

AQP, the Israeli company that has the franchise to distribute Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel, has, through Adv. Dr. Dori Klagsbald approached Acting Antitrust Commissioner Michal Cohen with a formal complaint alleging a blatant violation of the Competition Authority’s 2000 guidelines for a merger between Unilever, the controlling owner of Strauss Ice Cream, and Ben & Jerry’s Global.

Under the terms of the merger, it was determined that no action would be taken to reduce the scope of the sale of Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel, out of fear that the food giant might act to reduce competition in the market in favor of Strauss Ice Cream.

It was further stipulated in the terms of the merger that Unilever will have no right to determine for the Israeli Ben & Jerry’s franchisee the terms of marketing of its products in Israel.

About a month and a half ago, and in complete violation of the terms of the merger, the global company notified the Israeli franchisee of the end of its franchise period, after demanding that it stop distributing the company’s products in Judea and Samaria, a demand that the Israeli franchisee saw as illegal, immoral and as a surrender to the boycott organizations operating against Israel, which he was unwilling to accept.

The demand caused a great public uproar in Israel and around the world, with many Israelis expressing their support for the Israeli franchisee who fought independently against the international food giant.

The official complaint is another stage in AQP’s struggle to keep the franchise in its hands and is appealing to the Competition Authority to intervene and demand compliance with the merger guidelines, and to cancel Ben & Jerry’s global demand from the Israeli franchisee not to distribute and market the brand’s products in Judea and Samaria.

Avi Zinger stated that “as an Israeli franchisee, I am committed first and foremost to the State of Israel and its citizens, so I had no doubt that I would not accept the anti-Israel demand, which harms and discriminates against many citizens of the country.”

“Beyond the surrender and submission to the BDS organizations, this is a severe interference in competition in Israel and a blatant violation of the terms of the merger, and therefore we demand the intervention of the Competition Authority, which will work to protect the Israeli consumer,” he added.

Several US states have launched a probe against Unilever to determine if its boycott of Israel was a breach of their anti-boycott laws.

Over 30 US states have laws that prohibit it from contracting with companies that boycott Israel or are connected to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.
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