Lawyer for Ben & Jerry's Israel distributor says other corporations should 'take note' of Unilever decision

Ben & Jerry’s initially announced in July 2021 that it wouldn't allow ice cream to be sold 'within the Occupied Palestinian Territory'

A lawyer for Ben & Jerry's Israel distributor, American Quality Products Ltd., said that other corporations should "take note" of Unilever's decision to allow the company to continue distributing ice cream within the country, saying it should be a warning to other companies not to engage in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Because of Unilever's decision which allows American Quality Products to continue selling Ben & Jerry's within Israel, American Quality Products is dropping its lawsuit against the company. Unilever is Ben & Jerry's parent company.

In July 2021, Ben & Jerry's asked the Israeli distributor to cease operations in the West Bank, while continuing to sell ice cream in other parts of Israel, which according to the lawsuit, is illegal under the law in Israel and the United States.

By instructing American Quality products to boycott certain areas of Israel, the lawsuit alleges that it would have to violate Israel's non-discrimination law, as well as a law "prohibiting any person from knowingly calling for a boycott against Israel or any area under its control."

The decision would have ended American Quality Products 34-year business relationship with Unilever's subsidiary Ben and Jerry's, all with the intent to "boycott Israel," according to the lawsuit.

American Quality Products was represented by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.

Ben & Jerry's on shelves

Ice creams of Ben & Jerry's, a Unilever brand, are seen at their shop in London, Britain, October 5, 2020. (Reuters/Hannah McKay / Reuters Photos)

Alyza Lewin, President of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, who represented the owner of American Quality Products, Avi Zinger, told FOX Business that Unilever's action should send a message to other corporations who might be thinking about engaging in any boycott against Israel.

"I definitely think that this is a case that other companies should take note of," Lewin said. "One of the things that our lawsuit did, I think, was it really exposed the hypocrisy of the [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement and show that BDS relief harms the very Palestinians that the movement claims it wants to support."

"I think it became clear that the way forward for companies is not BDS, is not discrimination and not boycott. That's not the answer," Lewin said. "The answer is engagement, cooperation, coexistence."

Lewin also said that other corporations should realize BDS is bad for business.

"Other corporations should take heed: BDS is bad for business. Discrimination never pays. Boycotts are not the answer. Engagement, cooperation, and coexistence are the true corporate avenues for peace," Lewin said in a statement.

Lewin added that the decision by Unilever is a "tremendous gain" for the 170 people the company employs in Israel, and also for the Israelis and Palestinians who are involved in the supply chain process for the company.

Unilever announced the decision on Wednesday, stating that it has sold the "Ben & Jerry’s business interests in Israel" to American Quality Products.


The menu hangs on the wall at a Ben & Jerry's ice cream store on September 23, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The menu hangs on the wall at a Ben & Jerry's ice cream store on September 23, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images / Getty Images)

The action comes after a Unilever review of Ben & Jerry’s in Israel after the "brand and its independent Board announced last year its decision to discontinue sales of its ice cream in the West Bank," according to the statement.

During the review, according to Unilever, people within the Israeli Government were consulted.

"Unilever rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance. Antisemitism has no place in any society. We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position," the statement reads.

Unilever appears to have made the decision to sell its ice cream business in Israel without the approval of Ben & Jerry's, who tweeted today that they "do not agree with it."

"Unilever's arrangement means Ben & Jerry's in Israel will be owned and operated by AQP. Our company will no longer profit from Ben & Jerry's in Israel," the Ben & Jerry's tweet adds. "We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry's values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory."

Originally, Ben & Jerry's announced on July 19, 2021, that it would no longer allow its ice cream to be sold within the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

"We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners," the announcement read. 


Ben & Jerry's Israel

Las Vegas, Nevada, USA - May 19, 2011: A Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream shop sign on an exterior store wall in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (iStock)

Before Wednesday's decision by Unilever, Ben & Jerry's said it would not be renewing its agreement with the Israeli distributor, which was set to expire by the end of 2022.

FOX Business' Julia Musto contributed to this report.