Judge Rules Against Ben & Jerry's West Bank Pullout

Federal judge says company's products can still be sold in occupied territories
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 23, 2022 2:42 PM CDT
Judge Rules Against Ben & Jerry's West Bank Pullout
Two patrons enter a Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream shop in Burlington, Vt.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

A federal judge on Monday rejected a request by Ben & Jerry’s to block a plan by its corporate parent to allow its products to be sold in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank against the wishes of the Vermont ice cream maker's independent board of directors. US District Court Judge Andrew Carter said Ben & Jerry’s failed to show that the decision by London-based conglomerate Unilever would hurt Ben and Jerry’s social mission or confuse its customers, the AP reports. In his three-page decision, Carter said that the harm Ben & Jerry’s was claiming was "too speculative."

The products sold in Israel and the West Bank will use no English trademarks, instead displaying new Hebrew and Arabic language Ben & Jerry’s trademarks," the decision said. "Thus, the products sold in Israel and the West Bank will be dissimilar from other Ben & Jerry’s products, mitigating, if not eliminating, the possibility of reputational harm." A Ben & Jerry's spokesman said Monday that the company had "no new position for us to share at this time." Ben & Jerry’s complaint in the case filed last month outlined the company's tradition of social activism over its 44-year history, including opposition to U.S. nuclear weapons spending in the 1980s, and in the 1990s, supporting LGBTQ+ rights and farmers.

That activism continued after it was purchased by Unilever in 2000. Last year, Ben & Jerry’s independent board said it was going to stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem, saying the sales in the territories sought by the Palestinians are "inconsistent with our values." Earlier this year, Unilever announced that it was selling its business interest in Ben & Jerry’s in Israel to its Israeli licensee, which would market the products with Hebrew and Arabic labels. In its suit, Ben & Jerry's argued the move by Unilever “poses a risk” to the integrity of its brand. Ben & Jerry's also claimed the deal violated the 2000 acquisition agreement that allowed Ben & Jerry’s to continue its progressive social mission independent of business decisions made by Unilever. (More Ben & Jerry's stories.)

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