Ben & Jerry's will amend lawsuit against Unilever over Israel ice cream sale

FILE PHOTO: A refrigerator bearing the Ben & Jerry's logo is seen at a food store in the Jewish settlement of Efrat in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ben & Jerry's said it plans to amend its lawsuit challenging the sale of its ice cream business in Israel by its parent company, Unilever Plc.

In a letter filed on Tuesday night in federal court in Manhattan, Ben & Jerry's said it plans to file an amended complaint by Sept. 27, with Unilever's response due by Nov. 1.

Unilever has agreed to the timetable, the letter said. Its response to Ben & Jerry's original complaint had been due on Tuesday.

Ben & Jerry's had sued on July 5, saying the sale of the Israeli business to local licensee Avi Zinger breached Unilever's 2000 agreement to buy the Burlington, Vermont-based company because it would allow ice cream sales in the West Bank.

In July 2021, Ben & Jerry's decided to end sales in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, calling it "inconsistent" with the progressive values and social mission it retained the right to promote. That decision prompted a backlash against Unilever, including divestments by pension funds from the consumer goods company and accusations of anti-Semitism by some Jewish groups.

On Aug. 22, U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter in Manhattan said Ben & Jerry's did not deserve an injunction against the sale to Zinger because it failed to show it would suffer irreparable harm. The judge did not decide the lawsuit's merits.

Unilever has said Ben & Jerry's had no power to stop or undo the sale, which has already closed.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)