Ben & Jerry's Speaks Out Against Sales In The West Bank

While it looks like Ben & Jerry's year-long quest to end sales of its ice cream in the occupied West Bank may be ending in failure, that does not mean the progressive Vermont company is going to go quietly. The drama started in 2021 when, according to The Guardian, the company voted to stop selling its products in Palestinian territories, which have been under occupation for decades. The problem was Ben & Jerry's corporate owner, Unilever, then sold the rights in Israel to a different owner, Avi Zinger, who promptly ignored the decision and continued to sell the ice cream in Israeli West Bank settlements.

Ben & Jerry's then took the huge step of suing its parent company, with CNBC reporting that the ice cream makers claimed the sale violated the original terms under which Unilever bought them. Things seemed to be put to rest when a judge disagreed with the claim that selling Ben & Jerry's in the West Bank would harm the company's reputation and rejected the request for an injunction on the sale. It was a rather dramatic example of the conflicts that can arise when a large corporation makes a commitment to social justice, especially when the actual employees or smaller subsidiaries are as outspoken as Ben & Jerry's. 

Now, with the sale finalized and business moving forward, Ben & Jerry's is staking out a new course.

Ben & Jerry's disowns products being sold in West Bank settlements

The back and forth with Unilever continued recently as Ben & Jerry's board of directors put out a statement condemning the sale of any products that use the brand's insignia in East Jerusalem and settlements in the West Bank. The Associated Press released a statement from the company, which said, "Ben & Jerry's position is clear: The sale of products bearing any Ben & Jerry's insignia in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is against our values." It also reiterated that the sale was made without the brand's consent and that anything sold in these occupied territories is not true Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

Unilever poked back at Ben & Jerry's, saying in a statement, "The ownership of the brand is different, but the Ben & Jerry's product is no different to what's been enjoyed in Israel for many years." 

It seems like this adversarial jabbing only stands to get worse as neither side is backing down. Unfortunately, Ben & Jerry's doesn't have that much power to change things as Unilever has final say over all business decisions for the company. This will surely continue to drive frustration among both outspoken leaders and Ben & Jerry's loyal customers who appreciate the brand's unusually progressive stances.