Unilever Plc's internal dispute with Ben & Jerry's is ramping up after the Vermont-based ice cream maker disavowed its products being sold in Israel.
Ben & Jerry's independent board criticized its parent company Unilever's decision to allow the sale in West Bank settlements via a third party. The comments were from a Tuesday statement shared with Bloomberg, making it the first time Ben & Jerry's spoken publicly since filing the lawsuit in a federal New York court in July.
"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," the board said. "Such sales are inconsistent with international law, fundamental human rights, and Ben & Jerry's social mission."
Unilever is being sued by the ice cream company, which it has allowed to take politically progressive stances via an independent board. Last year, the board publicly pledged to cut Ben & Jerry's sales in the occupied West Bank over human rights, economic and social justice issues. Unilever then sold Ben & Jerry's to a local producer in Israel.
"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," Unilever said in a statement.
Blue & White Ice Cream, the local producer in Israel, is owned by Avi Zinger.
Unilever CEO Alan Jope said he considered the Israel dispute resolved.
"We're proud of that brand, and it is going nowhere," he said. "It is staying in the Unilever portfolio. Period."
Ben & Jerry's said Tuesday the illegal occupation of land by Israel was inconsistent with the company's values.
In the suit, they claim Unilever's sale of licenses to Blue & White conflicts with a legal agreement made when Unilever originally bought the brand in 2000, which gave the independent board control of its social mission.
Last year, Ben & Jerry's comments resulted in a fury of backlash from the Israeli government, which views the occupied territories as part of its economy. Israel even argued the ice cream company was violating anti-boycott laws.
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