Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

From the editor's desk: Don't blame Unilever for Ben & Jerry's decision to boycott


Unilever, Ltd., is a British multinational consumer goods company. They own over 400 brands. The conglomerate bought Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in 2001. Owners Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield relinquished managerial control of the company, but maintained autonomy over social issues.

When Ben & Jerry’s, the company, said that it is “inconsistent with our values” for their ice cream to be sold in Judea and Samaria, Unilever, the parent company was not — and is not — in agreement.

In a press release from Arutz Sheva 7, Avi Zinger, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s Israel, stated that he has “no intention of stopping the sales of the ice cream in Judea and Samaria.”

He continued, “It is inconceivable that the company decides to cause harm for political reasons, and mix ice cream and politics,” said Zinger.

Zinger said he had been under heavy pressure from Ben & Jerry’s global corporation. “I heard about the decision more or less together with everyone,” he said, “but I have been under pressure for about a year and hearing demands to stop marketing in Judea and Samaria. Of course, I have been opposed to it all along. Ever since the operation in Gaza the pressure from the company has increased.”

“I did not agree to surrender to this and I am not willing to continue to surrender to it,” Zinger stressed. “I have been with them for 25 years, I brought it to Israel. I was informed two hours ago that since I am not willing to cooperate on this issue, they will not extend my agreement in a year and a half,” said Zinger.

He reiterated that he “does not plan and does not even intend to stop” selling the ice cream in Judea and Samaria. He noted that there is another year and a half until the end of the franchise agreement with the company, and he hopes that by then the company will change its mind.

“I very much hope that during this year and a half the government and the whole public will support us and fight against this unusual phenomenon,” he said, adding that he expects Unilever, which is the owner of the global Ben & Jerry’s corporation, to understand the situation. “After all, they sell in the territories. They operate here. They have factories and hundreds and thousands of workers. They cannot deny the situation.”

Under fire from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is Unilever CEO Alan Jope. Sharon Wrobel of The Algemeiner reported that Jope stated during an earnings conference with investors, “This was a decision that was taken by Ben & Jerry’s and its independent board in line with an acquisition agreement that we signed 20 years ago, we have always recognized the importance of that agreement.”

In a press release by Jemima McEvoy in Forbes, she reported that Unilever sought to distance itself from the controversial decision of its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s to halt ice cream sales in Israel’s West Bank settlements, with the company’s chief executive telling investors Unilever had no part in the decision and is still “fully committed” to its business in Israel.

Jope emphasized the importance of Unilever’s ongoing relationship with Israel days after Bennett warned the consumer goods giant it would face “severe consequences” for Ben & Jerry’s decision. 

“If there’s one message I want to underscore … it’s that Unilever remains fully committed to our business in Israel,” Jope told investors during a Thursday morning earnings call.

There is a brief video message on YouTube from Zinger thanking people for their help and to please continue helping. “We need your help, we need your support,” he said. The video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6qJrmhnLkw.


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