The manufacturer and distributor of Ben & Jerry’s in Israel announced today it is suing Unilever and its subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s, for unlawfully terminating its 34-year business relationship in order to boycott Israel. The lawsuit requests the U.S. federal court deem Unilever’s termination illegal, enabling Israeli company American Quality Products (AQP) and its owner Avi Zinger to continue selling Ben & Jerry’s products throughout Israel.
According to the lawsuit, what Unilever demanded AQP do – boycott certain parts of Israel while continuing to sell in other parts of the country – is illegal under Israeli law, as well as U.S. law and policy. When AQP refused to comply with Unilever’s unlawful demand, Unilever refused to renew its license. Terminating AQP’s license solely because the company refused to break the law constitutes wrongful termination and breach of contract under U.S. law, which governs Unilever U.S. and its Ben & Jerry’s subsidiary. Zinger and AQP are seeking an injunction from the U.S. court that would enable AQP to continue manufacturing and distributing Ben & Jerry products in all of Israel. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, where Unilever U.S. is headquartered.
The Israeli laws Unilever directed AQP to violate include:
Israel’s non-discrimination law, which prohibits discrimination in the furnishing of a product or public service on the basis of race, religion, nationality, place of origin, gender, sexual orientation, age and residence and
Israeli law prohibiting any person from knowingly calling for a boycott against Israel or an area under its control.
The following U.S. laws also prohibit anti-Israel boycotts:
The U.S. Export Control Reform Act which prohibits companies from refusing to do business for boycott-related reasons;
The U.S. Tax Code’s reporting requirements for activities related to boycotts;
The U.S.-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act; and
Numerous state anti-discrimination policies and anti-boycott laws.
According to the lawsuit, Unilever is also violating the Israeli government’s consent decree for the Unilever-Ben & Jerry’s merger as well as numerous terms of the license agreement between AQP, Ben & Jerry’s, and Unilever.