Ben & Jerry's bid to block sales in Israeli settlements fails in US court

Judge ruled that company failed to demonstrate sales would cause 'irreparable harm' to its reputation

Ben & Jerry's ice cream in Jerusalem. AFP
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Ben & Jerry's lost its bid on Monday to block its parent Unilever from selling its ice cream in West Bank settlements, which the US company said went against its values.

The company, known for its political activism, took the unusual step of seeking an injunction after London-based Unilever announced it had sold its interest in the ice cream to an Israeli licence-holder.

But a US federal judge ruled on Monday that the ice cream company had "failed to demonstrate" that the move to sell the goods in the Israeli-occupied settlements caused it "irreparable harm".

In July last year, Ben & Jerry's announced it would no longer sell its ice cream in the Palestinian territories, which Israel seized in 1967, although it said it would keep selling its products in Israel.

But Israeli licence-holder Avi Zinger continued to produce the ice cream at his factory in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and distributed it to the Israeli settlements, going against the company's decision.

Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in communities widely regarded as illegal under international law.

On July 5, Ben and Jerry's asked that any agreement allowing distribution or sale of its products in the West Bank be dissolved and that any further transaction go before its board of directors for approval.

Unilever's decision was "made without the consent of Ben & Jerry's Independent Board," and goes against the merger agreement that gave the board the ability to protect the founder's values and reputation, the complaint said.

But US District Court Judge Andrew Carter Jr in Manhattan said the idea the company's messages could be marred or customers could become confused about its core values was "too speculative".

Founded in the US in 1978, Ben & Jerry's is known for championing progressive causes, including protecting the environment and promoting human rights.

It has frequently released special ice cream flavours to support causes or protest against others.

Updated: August 23, 2022, 3:57 AM