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Ben & Jerry’s Sued in US Court by Its Israeli Franchisee

The subcontractor who manufactures and distributes Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel is suing the ice cream maker and its parent company, Unilever, in a U.S. court over the subsidiary’s decision to not renew its license with him.

Avi Zinger and his Israeli company, American Quality Products, filed the lawsuit in federal court in New Jersey on Thursday. The board of directors of Ben & Jerry’s, acting under its independent social justice agreement with Unilever, informed Zinger last summer it would not continue its contract with him because he refused to halt sales in the “Occupied Palestinian territories.” Ben & Jerry’s wanted to halt those sales in support of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

From the Financial Times:

Zinger and his company claim the decision last year not to renew their agreement to manufacture and distribute Ben & Jerry’s in Israel, violates US laws governing trade boycotts and relations with the Jewish state, according to a copy of the legal complaint seen by the Financial Times…

 

Zinger and his company, which took on the Ben & Jerry’s licence in 1987, claim Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever’s US arm “pressured” them to cease selling in the occupied territories “even though [they] knew that this demand violated Israeli law, the laws of various states . . . US policy, and a consent decree issued by the Israeli government as a condition of the approval of the Unilever-Ben & Jerry’s merger.”

 

After Zinger argued such a move would be illegal, Ben & Jerry’s “abruptly” told him it would not renew the licensing deal, the lawsuit claims. Zinger said: “There is still time to do the right thing. Renew my licence and leave ice cream out of the political debate.”

The New York Post reports that Zinger is seeking an injunction from the court to allow him to continue selling Ben & Jerry’s products until the lawsuit is resolved. The complaint also makes the case that the ice cream maker inconsistently applies its social justice mission:

The plaintiff also noted that Unilever sells products in Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Venezuela and Iran. Ben & Jerry’s also is sold in China, whose policies toward its Uyghur minority the US calls “genocide.”

 

The company has never criticized the sale of its products in other disputed lands, including Tibet, Crimea, Western Sahara, Kashmir and South Sudan, Zinger said.

 

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is also sold in Texas and Georgia despite policies on abortion and voting rights to which the brand objects, the plaintiff said.

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