(Reuters) – American ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s on Monday said it will stop marketing its products in the occupied Palestinian territories, saying that selling there was “inconsistent” with company values.
The South Burlington, Vermont-based company, which is owned by Britain’s Unilever (NYSE:) Plc, has come under pressure from pro-Palestinian groups over its business in Israel and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which is handled through a licensee partner since 1987.
More than 440,000 Israeli settlers live uneasily among some 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank, land that Israel captured and occupied in a 1967 war but which Palestinians say is the heartland of a future state.
Most countries consider Israeli settlements on Palestinian land to be illegal. Israel disputes this.
On Monday, Ben & Jerry’s said it would not renew its license agreement with its Israeli partner when it expires at the end of next year. It will, however, stay in Israel under a different arrangement, without sales in the Palestinian territories.
Unilever, in a separate statement, said it remains “fully committed” to its presence in Israel. It said it has always recognized Ben & Jerry’s right “to take decisions about its social mission”.
“We also welcome the fact that Ben & Jerry’s will stay in Israel,” Unilever said.
The main Jewish settler movement Yesha criticized the move and called on Ben & Jerry’s “to reverse the discriminatory decision, which brings a mean spirit to such a sweet field”.
Ben & Jerry’s operates a manufacturing facility and two scoop shops in Israel, which it describes on its website https://www.benjerry.com/about-us/media-center/palestine-statement as being located “outside the occupied territories, just south of Tel Aviv”.
Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000 in a unique deal that allows it to operate with more autonomy than other subsidiaries.
It uses that freedom to pursue a cultural and social mission that has recently included strongly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ rights and electoral campaign finance reform.
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