Ben & Jerry's contract is discriminatory - US product company

American Quality Products' legal representation filed a rebuttal to Unilever's plan to cease distribution to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

 An ice cream assembly line at the Ben & Jerry's factory near Kiryat Malachi, July 2021 (photo credit: FLASH90)
An ice cream assembly line at the Ben & Jerry's factory near Kiryat Malachi, July 2021
(photo credit: FLASH90)

In a rebuttal brief responding to Ben & Jerry's decision to not renew its contract with American Quality Products,  AQP's attorneys claimed that Unilever, the company which owns Ben & Jerry's, is exacting punishment on AQP for their "refusal to engage in illegal conduct."

In March, AQP and CEO of Ben & Jerry's Israel Avi Zinger sued Ben & Jerry's and its parent company Unilever in the US District Court of New Jersey for unlawfully terminating its 34-year business relationship by boycotting Israel. The recent rebuttal asserts that Unilever's refusal to sell to customers residing in the West Bank and east Jerusalem constitutes unlawful discrimination against the residents and that its business relationship with AQP should not be dependent on AQP's willingness to break US law.  

The rebuttal states that, in maintaining that it possesses an unqualified right to terminate (or, in this case, refuse the renewal of) AQP's contract, Unilever has disregarded abundant legal precedent. 

“Unilever’s unlawful demand that Avi Zinger and AQP discriminate against customers based on their residence isn’t a ‘side show’ — it’s the main show,” declared Brandeis Center President Alyza Lewin. 

It claims that Unilever is violating a number of existing legalities: Israeli law; the 2001 antitrust Consent Decree of the Israeli Competition Authority; US export law and the pro-competition and anti-boycott laws and public policies of the US. These extend to state law, applying to many states including New York and New Jersey. 

Mitzpeh Yericho holds Ben & Jerry's ice cream party for settlement's children, July 2021 (credit: Courtesy)Mitzpeh Yericho holds Ben & Jerry's ice cream party for settlement's children, July 2021 (credit: Courtesy)

Furthermore, AQP's attorneys pointed out that Unilever violated the terms of their license agreement. The agreement explicitly prohibited AQP from breaking the law and also prohibits Unilever from demanding it do so. The agreement also forbade all parties from publicizing non-renewal or termination, a provision that Unilever violated in its June 2021 non-renewal statement. 

“By insisting Zinger violate Israel and US anti-discrimination and anti-boycott laws and public policy, Unilever violated the Consent Decree and License Agreement it signed and unlawfully attempted to coerce AQP to violate laws both parties agreed to obey,” said Lewin.