On Thursday, Unilever, the British multinational consumer goods company with headquarters in London, issued a cryptic statement saying: “Unilever is pleased to announce that the litigation with Ben & Jerry’s Independent Board has been resolved.”
Thus ended (maybe, this thing has a life of its own) Ben & Jerry’s antisemitic saga that began in the summer of 2021 with a statement from Unilever’s subsidiary (acquired in 2020) that makes those delicious and innovative ice cream flavors in Vermont, saying Ben & Jerry’s management believes “it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”
And in case you were wondering what would happen to the ice cream-craving Israelis who live in the “OPT,” the company explained: “We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.”
What followed was a political storm that threatened Unilever’s business in the US, as one state after another responded according to their anti-BDS laws and ordered their pension funds to drop their Unilever shares.
The owner of American Quality Products Ltd, Avi Zinger, a.k.a. “our licensee who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region,” took Unilever to court, and finally, on June 29, 2022, about a year after the Ben & Jerry’s initial infuriating announcement, Unilever announced that it had sold its Ben & Jerry’s business interests in Israel to Zinger, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream would continue to be sold under its Hebrew and Arabic names throughout Israel, including Judea and Samaria.
Shortly thereafter, Anuradha Mittal, the founder of the Oakland Institute, a progressive think tank, head of the board of directors of Ben & Jerry’s, and StopAntisemitism.org’s 2021 Antisemite of the Year, announced that Ben & Jerry’s was filing a lawsuit against its parent company, demanding that Unilever recognize its “violation of the letter and the spirit of our original Merger Agreement.” She repeated some of her original points, namely that the board’s job is to protect the brand’s “social mission and integrity,” and this includes the right to ban sales in Judea and Samaria, which was “inconsistent with our values.”
Unilever had argued in response to this highly unusual case of a subsidiary suing its parent company, that Ben & Jerry’s board of directors did not have the power to bring that legal action and asked the court to dismiss.
Now the nightmare is over, and Jewish settlers can once again challenge their pancreas with fresh onslaughts of the Vermont delicacy, although Ben & Jerry’s board has yet to issue its own comment on Unilever’s announcement. Mittal is an indefatigable hater, and she does not accept defeat graciously. For all we know, she’ll get Elon Musk to do a hostile takeover of Unilever and reopen the court case.
Avi Zinger, for his part, sent out this statement: “I am pleased that the litigation between Unilever and the independent Board of Ben & Jerry’s has been resolved. There is no change to the agreement I made with Unilever earlier in the year. I look forward to continuing to produce and sell the great tasting Ben & Jerry’s ice cream under the Hebrew and Arabic trademarks throughout Israel and the West Bank long into the future.”
You get this means he can’t use the English trademark, right? If you don’t read Hebrew or Arabic, you’ll have to go by the pictures of the happy cows.