Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, announced on Tuesday that the ice cream maker would resume sales in Israel and rejected the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Last summer, Ben & Jerry’s revealed that it would stop sales in parts of the Near East purportedly “occupied” by Israelis — leading to action from lawmakers and legal nonprofits. Unilever said on Tuesday that the company sold its Ben & Jerry’s business interests to American Quality Products owner Avi Zinger, the current Israel-based license holder, who will sell the ice cream products throughout Israel under both Hebrew and Arabic brand names.
“Unilever rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance,” a statement from the company said. “Antisemitism has no place in any society. We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position.”
Unilever, which employs 2,000 people in Israel, added that the new business arrangement occurred after reviewing Ben & Jerry’s boycott policy. “We look forward to continuing to make a positive contribution to Israel’s economy and society for many decades to come, and hope that Israelis and Palestinians can reach a peaceful resolution of their conflict,” the company continued.
International Legal Forum CEO Arsen Ostrovsky, one of the first attorneys to initiate suit against Ben & Jerry’s over its boycott of Israel, said in a statement to The Daily Wire that Unilever’s decision represented a “stunning unequivocal defeat” for the BDS movement, which promotes a total avoidance of the Israeli economy over claims that the nation wrongfully occupies Palestinian land.
“This decision was only made possible after intense legal and financial pressure, including direct negotiations with Unilever leadership,” Ostrovsky said. “A sweet victory indeed for justice and the rule of law, against the dark forces of hate, bigotry and antisemitism of the BDS Movement.”
Several state governments took action against Ben & Jerry’s boycott. Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL), for example, said in July 2021 that the company had violated state law through its policy.
“As you know, Florida has long had a strong relationship with the State of Israel,” DeSantis said. “As a matter of law and principle, the State of Florida does not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the Israeli people, including boycotts and divestments targeting Israel.”
In June 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul (D-NY) gave Ben & Jerry’s a July 6 deadline to explain why its behavior did not constitute boycott activity. Hochul press secretary Hazel Crampton-Hays told The Forward that an earlier response from Unilever “did not include important clarifying information central to formulating a determination under the Executive Order.”
In an October 2021 interview, Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were pressed by Axios reporter Alexi McCammond about their boycott decision.
“You guys are big proponents of voting rights. Why do you still sell ice cream in Georgia? Texas — abortion bans. Why are you still selling there?” McCammond asked. After a six-second pause, a frazzled Cohen replied, “I don’t know.”
“It’s an interesting question,” he attempted to answer. “I don’t know what that would accomplish. We’re working on those issues, of voting rights, and — I don’t know. You know, I mean, I think you ask a really good question. And I think I’d have to sit down and think about it for a bit.”