Ben & Jerry's ice cream parlor
Ben & Jerry's ice cream parloriStock

Unilever has asked a US judge to dismiss a lawsuit by Ben & Jerry's over the sale of its Israeli ice cream business, saying the subsidiary's "insistence on taking sides" in the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict gives its board no authority to stop or even sue over the sale, Reuters reported.

In a filing on Friday afternoon in Manhattan federal court, Unilever said Ben & Jerry's board "is no ordinary board."

The board, it said in the filings quoted by Reuters, has some responsibility to preserve its "social mission" and safeguard the brand under the shareholder agreement from 2000, when Unilever bought Ben & Jerry's. But Unilever said that the board cannot sue.

Unilever also said the board's "recent insistence on taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict created an untenable situation" for both sides.

In July 2021, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would cease selling products in Judea and Samaria, which is termed the "Occupied Palestinian Territories”, causing an uproar.

The announcement led to months of controversy and criticism, including multiple American states divesting from the firm, and Australia’s kosher authority delisting the ice cream maker.

This past July, Unilever announced that it had reached a new arrangement for Ben & Jerry’s in Israel, selling its Ben & Jerry’s business interests in Israel to Avi Zinger, the owner of American Quality Products Ltd (AQP), the current Israel-based licensee.

The new arrangement meant Ben & Jerry’s would be sold under its Hebrew and Arabic names throughout Israel, including Judea and Samaria, under the full ownership of its current licensee.

Ben & Jerry’s then sued Unilever in a bid to block the sale of the Israeli business to Zinger.

In late August, however, the court rejected Ben & Jerry's request for an injunction to stop the sale.

Last month, the board of directors of Ben & Jerry’s split with Unilever to denounce products sold under the Ben & Jerry’s brand by the company’s Israeli distributor.