JERUSALEM — Unilever mentioned on Wednesday that it had bought the Israeli arm of the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, practically a yr after Ben & Jerry’s set off a fury in Israel by saying it might cease promoting its merchandise within the Israeli-occupied West Financial institution.
Unilever, a British conglomerate that purchased the American firm Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, mentioned it was promoting its subsidiary’s wing in Israel to the ice cream maker’s longstanding associate there, Avi Zinger, who would proceed to promote the product within the West Financial institution in addition to inside Israel. The ice cream could have barely completely different branding, with Hebrew and Arabic labels somewhat than English, Mr. Zinger mentioned in a cellphone interview.
Ben & Jerry’s unbiased board reserves the fitting to make selections about social points, whereas Unilever is answerable for monetary and operational selections, as a part of the 2000 settlement. Unilever’s resolution on Wednesday was a end result of an 11-month strain marketing campaign during which Unilever confronted rising calls for from critics to overrule its subsidiary’s resolution — in addition to intense strain from Palestinians and their supporters to double down.
Supporters of Ben & Jerry’s resolution final yr noticed it as a lift for a long-running worldwide marketing campaign in opposition to the West Financial institution occupation. However critics accused the corporate of antisemitism for refusing to promote to Israeli settlers. The transfer led a number of American pension funds to divest from Unilever and prompted a lawsuit from certainly one of Unilever’s shareholders.
It was additionally the most recent transfer in a worldwide, decades-long public relations challenge: whether or not and the way overseas companies and cultural figures ought to outline and reply to Israel’s 55-year occupation of the West Financial institution.
Israel captured the West Financial institution from Jordan in 1967 and has since allowed tons of of 1000’s of Israelis to dwell in tons of of latest Jewish settlements there. Israel says its maintain on the territory is official, citing safety issues, historic Jewish connection to the land and the perceived lack of a reputable negotiating associate amongst Palestinians.
However most international locations contemplate the occupation and the settlements unlawful underneath worldwide legislation, and rights campaigners argue that the West Financial institution’s two-tier authorized system, which differentiates between Palestinians and Israelis, constitutes a type of apartheid.
To strain Israel, pro-Palestinian activists have lengthy pushed firms, musicians and artists to make use of their affect to protest the occupation — generally by divesting from enterprise in West Financial institution settlements, like Ben & Jerry’s, or by boycotting Israel itself.
In response, Israel and its supporters have exerted heavy strain of their very own, accusing people who boycott or divest — even from the West Financial institution alone — of antisemitism. In 2019, Airbnb, the holiday rental firm, reversed its resolution to take away property listings within the Israeli settlements of the West Financial institution, after 4 lawsuits had been filed in opposition to it in the US and Israel.
In its assertion on Wednesday, Unilever mentioned it “used the chance of the previous yr to take heed to views on this complicated and delicate matter and believes that is the most effective consequence for Ben & Jerry’s in Israel.” Each side declared victory after the announcement.
“It is a large victory for Israel,” mentioned Lior Hayat, a spokesman for the Israeli overseas ministry. “It additionally sends a really clear message that there isn’t a room for hate speech or discrimination in opposition to Israel. And, if I could, I’ll say that it’s a victory that undoubtedly leaves a candy style.”
Supporters of Ben & Jerry’s authentic resolution to divest, nevertheless, declared the corporate’s sale as a professional victory, because it meant that the ice cream could be bought within the West Financial institution underneath a special possession and branding.
“Ben & Jerry’s received’t be doing enterprise in unlawful settlements,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, mentioned in a press release. “What comes subsequent might look and style comparable, however, with out Ben & Jerry’s acknowledged social justice values, it’s only a pint of ice cream.”
Each Unilever and Mr. Zinger declined to reveal the worth of the sale. Ben & Jerry’s didn’t reply to a request for remark.