An Israeli girl talks on a cellphone beside a Ben & Jerry's ice cream freezer at a supermarket in the Jewish settlement Har Home, south of Jerusalem, on Friday. The Vermont-based ice cream company sold its interest to an Israeli distributor. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
July 1 (UPI) -- Ben & Jerry's ice cream parent company Unilever has sold its business interest in Israel to its distributor there in an effort to address its brand in connection with the country and West Bank settlements.
Vermont-based Unilever announced on Wednesday the sale to American Quality Products, which will sell Ben & Jerry's under its Hebrew and Arabic names in Israel and the West Bank.
Ben & Jerry's ice cream has been an item in Israel since 1987 but critics had slammed the company over the sales and Israel's support of settlements in the West Bank, which is against international law.
"Unilever has used the opportunity of the past year to listen to perspectives on this complex and sensitive matter and believes this is the best outcome for Ben & Jerry's in Israel," Unilever said in a statement. "The review included extensive consultation over several months, including with the Israeli government.
Unilever Israel employs around 2,000 people, has four local manufacturing plants and works with a network of around 2,000 local suppliers and service providers. The company said it will not change its stands in rejecting "any form of discrimination or intolerance."
"Antisemitism has no place in any society," the company said. "We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position."
Alyza Lewin, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which represented American Quality Products owner Avi Zinger, said he will no longer be bound by the company's more liberal image.
"Avi Zinger is able to and has the right to continue selling the same Ben & Jerry's ice cream he's been selling for 35 years in those areas forever, in perpetuity," Lewin said, according to the Times of Israel. "Ben & Jerry's in Vermont no longer has any authority over Avi. They can't stop him from selling Ben & Jerry's ice cream."