Ben and Jerry's in Israel
The recent development of the Ben and Jerry's saga in Israel could prompt a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, which members of Congress from both parties are seeking.
Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Moshe Sa'ar has announced that the government will consider possible lawsuits against Unilever, owner of Ben and Jerry's, under the country's anti-boycott law. Although Ben and Jerry's announced in July last year that it would stop selling ice cream in the "occupied" territory, the law could require it and possibly Unilever Global to withdraw from the country.
Unilever, a sprawling corporation with other major brands including Axe, Dove, Hellman's and Vaseline, claims that "boycott" is a mischaracterisation, and has said that Ben and Jerry's will remain in Israel until the end of 2022.
Justice Minister Sa'ar will work with Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Any action against the company must be approved by the Knesset's law and constitution committee The Knesset passed a boycott law in 2011 to impose sanctions on the boycotting company or organisation.
An Israeli law designed to respond to the "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions" movement, also known as BDS, prohibits companies from engaging in targeted boycotts. However, a Ben and Jerry's spokesperson declined to comment on the new development, but referred to the original statement of 19 July on its website. "Although Ben and Jerry's will no longer be sold on the OPT, we will remain in Israel under another agreement. We will share information on this as soon as we are ready."
Unilever denies having anything to do with the BDS movement.
In the past, the parent company has stressed that Ben and Jerry's has autonomy through an independent board of directors, allowing it to engage in certain activities.
Unilever should "pull the plug" on Ben and Jerry's independent board, said Tom Anderson, director of the Government Integrity Project at the National Law and Policy Centre, a watchdog group that monitors government and corporations.