The Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company has lost its legal battle to keep its products from being sold by its corporate parent in Israeli settlements which it claims would hurt its credibility and undermine the company’s social mission.
A federal judge on Monday rejected a request by Ben & Jerry’s to block a plan by its corporate parent, Unilever, to allow its products to be sold in east Jerusalem and the West Bank against the wishes of the Vermont ice cream maker’s independent board of directors.
U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Carter said Ben & Jerry’s failed to show that the decision by London-based consumer goods conglomerate Unilever would hurt Ben and Jerry’s social mission or confuse its customers.
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.”
Last year Ben & Jerry’s independent board said it was going to stop selling ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem arguing that doing so would be “inconsistent with our values” due to the company’s opposition to Israeli government policies which some have associated with the BDS movement.
In an interview last year, Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield struggled to explain why they oppose selling products in Israel over political disagreements but do business in areas of the United States where they disagree with laws and policies.
“It’s an interesting question. I don’t know what that would accomplish. We’re working on those issues, of voting rights,” Cohen said when asked why the company sells products in states where it opposes election integrity legislation. “I don’t know. I think you ask a really good question. And I think I’d have to sit down and think about it for a bit.”
Ben & Jerry’s spokesman Sean Greenwood said Monday that the company had “no new position for us to share at this time.”
Associated Press contributed to this report