The manufacturer and distributor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel announced today (March 3) it is suing the Vermont ice cream company and its parent Unilever over Ben & Jerry's decision last July to stop selling ice cream in the West Bank/Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) to protest Israeli settlements there.
American Quality Products (AQP) and its owner Avi Zinger said the request – to boycott certain parts of Israel while continuing to sell in other parts of the country – is illegal under Israeli law as well as U.S. law and policy. "When AQP refused to comply with Unilever’s unlawful demand, Unilever refused to renew its license," terminating the 34-year business relationship, AQP said in an email to Food Processing.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, where Unilever U.S. is headquartered.
"Terminating AQP’s license solely because the company refused to break the law constitutes wrongful termination and breach of contract under U.S. law, which governs Unilever U.S. and its Ben & Jerry’s subsidiary," AQP said. "Zinger and AQP are seeking an injunction from the U.S. court that would enable AQP to continue manufacturing and distributing Ben & Jerry products in all of Israel."
According to AQP, the Israeli laws Unilever directed AQP to violate include:
- Israel’s non-discrimination law, which prohibits discrimination in the furnishing of a product or public service on the basis of race, religion, nationality, place of origin, gender, sexual orientation, age and residence and
- Israeli law prohibiting any person from knowingly calling for a boycott against Israel or an area under its control.
According to AQP, the following U.S. laws also prohibit anti-Israel boycotts:
- The U.S. Export Control Reform Act which prohibits companies from refusing to do business for boycott-related reasons;
- The U.S. Tax Code’s reporting requirements for activities related to boycotts;
- The U.S.-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act; and
- Numerous state anti-discrimination policies and anti-boycott laws.
At the time the boycott was announced, the ice cream company said Israel's continuing to build settlements in Palestinian land was "inconsistent with our values."
Recall that while Ben & Jerry's has been owned by Unilever since 2000, it was founded in 1978 by two Jewish Americans. Despite that, both Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield stated support for their former company's action.