Ben & Jerry's sues Unilever over Israeli business sale

STORY: Ben & Jerry's on Tuesday sued its parent Unilever to block the sale of its Israeli business to a local licensee.

The ice cream brand said the selling of its sweet treats in the occupied West Bank was “inconsistent” with its values.

Filed in a federal court in New York, the lawsuit stated that Ben & Jerry's board retained independence to protect its integrity when Unilever acquired the ice cream maker in 2000.

And that selling the business to Avi Zinger’s American Quality Products, its former long-time Israeli licensee, threatened to undermine the brand’s integrity.

The lawsuit sought an injunction against the sale, announced last week, to "protect the brand and social integrity Ben & Jerry's has spent decades building".

In a statement, Unilever said it had the right to sell the disputed business and that the transaction had already closed.

The controversy began a year ago when Ben & Jerry's said it would end sales in the occupied West Bank and parts of East Jerusalem, and cut ties with Zinger.

Israel condemned the move and some Jewish groups accused the company of anti-Semitism.

Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who are no longer involved in the company’s operations, wrote in the New York Times then that they supported Israel but opposed its "illegal occupation of the West Bank”.

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