Israeli legal NGO looking to ‘force Unilever’s hand’ on the ice-cream maker’s announced boycott by copying the brand and going to court.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
An Israeli legal NGO is fighting fire with fire – or ice cream with ice cream, in this case.
After global business Unilever announced last week that its subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s, decided to boycott of Judea and Samaria once its Israeli maker/distributor’s license runs out in December 2022, the Shurat Hadin-Israeli Law Center got to work.
CEO Nitsana Darshan-Leiter sent Unilever a letter Saturday saying that it has registered a trademark for Judea and Samaria’s Ben & Jerry’s with the proper Israeli authorities, becoming “the lawful owners” of the manufacturer’s name in the disputed region.
“We will copy them,” she told the New York Post, down to the taste of the ice cream and its packaging, with the express desire that Unilever take them to court.
A mock-up of the potential knock-off brand even reflected the original company’s penchant for using humorous names, with the mystery flavor called “Frozen Chosen People,” along with a picture of the father of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl.
“This step we’ve taken forces their hand,” she told the New York daily. “I don’t think they thought this out very carefully.”
If they are sued for trademark violations, Shurat Hadin will ask them to explain to a judge “why they do business in [other] occupied territories and they don’t want to do business in Israel,” she said, citing Russian-occupied Crimea as an example. The NGO will base its case on the argument that Unilever forfeited its exclusive rights to the product by the decision to discriminate against Israel.
Shurat Hadin has gone to bat for the state innumerable times. It has sued Palestinian terrorist-sponsoring countries and banks over recent decades in an attempt to dry up terrorists’ funding. It has been fighting Palestinian lawfare against Israel, such as refuting war crimes charges being considered by the International Court in the Hague, and filing counter-charges against Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Its lawyers also helped shape the anti-BDS laws on the books in many U.S. states.
In its announcement, Unilever made it clear that it was Ben & Jerry’s independent board that made the call to stop its ice cream from reaching the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” and that Unilever itself remained “fully committed” to its business in Israel. The Israeli branch of the company manufactures and exports tens of millions of dollars’ worth of products annually around the globe. However, the anti-boycott laws cover the parent companies of any business that wants to discriminate against the Jewish state.
Shurat Hadin has already had success in fighting BDS attempts. In 2019 it sued Airbnb for religious prejudice when the home-sharing company tried delisting properties only in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The company backed down very quickly.