(October 27, 2021, JNS Wire)
StandWithUs and the Israeli-American Coalition For Action sent a letter to Unilever CEO Alan Jope and the Board of Directors regarding its subsidiary company, Ben & Jerry’s, which is planning to cut ties with its factory in Israel—resulting in a boycott of the entire State of Israel. The letter expresses the clear expectation that Unilever will be transparent in acknowledging the reality that it has the authority to overturn this decision and that it will now do so.
In July, 2021, Ben & Jerry’s released a statement that it would cease to sell ice cream in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem in 2023 while remaining in Israel “through a different arrangement.” However, this statement was reportedly written by Unilever and adopted by Unilever as its own, without approval from Ben & Jerry’s independent board. Ben & Jerry’s Board Chair Anuradha Mittal has described the official Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever statement as a form of “deceit.” She has also explicitly promoted boycotts targeting all of Israel and implied Israel’s existence is a “catastrophe.” Furthermore, Israeli law does not allow a company to sell to certain Israelis while boycotting others based on where they live. As such, if Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever do not change course, they will be engaging in a boycott of Israel as a whole.
Unilever claimed it has no authority to override this discriminatory decision, pointing to its acquisition agreement with Ben & Jerry’s. While this agreement gave Ben & Jerry’s board power to make decisions consistent with the social mission of Ben & Jerry’s, it is a red herring in this case. The authority of the board is limited to commercially reasonable decisions.
As the StandWithUs/IAC letter points out, neither Unilever nor Ben & Jerry’s has explained how boycotting Israel is commercially reasonable. This is because the boycott decision has, in fact, proven to be commercially unreasonable. Numerous states and consumer groups have initiated their own boycotts of Unilever, and multiple states have begun the process of divesting state funds previously invested in Unilever.
We sincerely hope that Unilever will reverse its prior position and take the necessary steps to ensure that Ben & Jerry’s does not undertake its planned boycott, which aligns both companies with a campaign of hate aimed at ending Israel’s existence.