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February 14, 2022 4:51 pm

Israel Franchisee on Unilever Plan: Any New Ben & Jerry’s ‘Arrangement’ to Limit Sales in Israel Violates Anti-Boycott Law

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Tubs of Ben & Jerry’s ice-creams are seen as a labourer works at their factory in Be’er Tuvia, Israel July 20, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

A possible arrangement to continue selling Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel while excluding the West Bank and areas of east Jerusalem would violate the country’s anti-boycott law, CEO of the ice cream maker’s Israel franchisee Avi Zinger has said.

“Any new arrangement that does not include every part of Israel constitutes a violation of Israeli law,” Zinger stated.

Zinger responded to comments by CEO of Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, who told journalists on Thursday that the board of the ice cream maker is seeking to formulate a “new arrangement” for sales in Israel by the end of the year. “Our absolute focus right now is to figure out what the new arrangement will be for Ben & Jerry’s,” CEO Alan Jope said.

The update comes after July’s decision by Ben & Jerry’s independent board not to renew its license agreement with its current Israeli partner at the end of 2022, saying that it was “inconsistent” with its values to sell products in “the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” That announcement was made after Zinger refused to heed a demand by the Vermont-based ice cream company to stop selling Ben & Jerry’s in West Bank settlements and areas of east Jerusalem.

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Zinger contended that Jope’s statements show a “lack of understanding of Israeli law, that unequivocally forbids the sale of products in Israel while excluding the West Bank.”

In recent weeks, Zinger urged the Israeli government to apply a 2011 anti-boycott law against Unilever over the July decision. Many US states have applied their own such policies against the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign — as a result, divesting or ceasing to invest funds in the British conglomerate.

Earlier this month, Israel’s Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar approved regulations to sanction companies such as Ben & Jerry’s and its parent Unilever over their decision to boycott Israel, by preventing them from taking part in state tenders and limiting other benefits.

The regulations, which still await approval by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee will apply to companies that have called for boycotting Israel, or anyone participating in such a boycott.

“In the coming weeks, the Constitution Committee of the Israeli Knesset is set to approve the ordinances of the Anti-Boycott Law,” Zinger said Sunday. “This will enable the immediate leveling of sanctions against the company in response to the words of the CEO of Unilever.”

Zinger also said that the Israel Competition Authority is expected to publish its verdict in the coming days, on whether Unilever violated the terms of its agreement with the government body which restricts the conglomerate from taking any action to “interfere with the franchisee’s activities in the country.”

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