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American ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s has called for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, remarks that risk reigniting tensions with parent company Unilever over their stance on Israel, reported Financial Times on Tuesday.

“Peace is a core value of Ben & Jerry’s,” the company’s board chair Anuradha Mittal was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.

“From Iraq to Ukraine [the company] has consistently stood up for these principles. Today is no different as we call for peace and a permanent and immediate ceasefire.”

Mittal added that the board was confident its stance on a ceasefire was “consistent with the history and values of our company.”

The decision follows a long-running dispute between Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever over the brand’s attempt in 2021 to stop selling its products in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Ben & Jerry’s Unilever fight shows risks of ceding control

In 2021, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would stop marketing its products, saying that selling there was “inconsistent” with company values, according to a previous Reuters report.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – whose party favoured Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – had said at that time that Ben & Jerry’s was making a “morally wrong” decision, added Reuters.

To prevent the move, Unilever sold the Israeli arm of the brand to a local licensee. Ben & Jerry’s responded by filing a lawsuit against Unilever, a rare case of a company being sued by its own subsidiary.

Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000 in a unique deal that allowed it to operate with more autonomy than other subsidiaries.

Unilever, which also owns brands like Dove soap and Magnum ice creams, announced in December 2022 that the lawsuit had been resolved. The Israeli business is now owned by local licensee Avi Zinger, added FT.

The development comes as Israeli aggression widened in Gaza, and which has already killed over 24,000 people, while displacing 1.9 million of the 2.3 million residents.

Israel rejects genocide charges, tells World Court it must defend itself

Ben & Jerry’s is one of only a few companies to have taken a public stance on the Israel-Hamas war or to have backed a permanent ceasefire. Several companies that have commented publicly have faced consumer backlashes.

“It is stunning that millions are marching around the world but the corporate world has been silent,” said Mittal was further quoted as saying by FT.

The board of Ben & Jerry’s said it had made its decision to call for a ceasefire independently of Unilever, pointing out that it is an autonomous subsidiary of the consumer goods conglomerate and that the ice cream brand’s board held “primary responsibility for its social mission and essential brand integrity”.

Under pressure: Starbucks CEO says protestors ‘influenced by misrepresentation on social media’

The Israeli aggression in Gaza has seen protests and calls for ceasefire, but also divided elite American higher education institutions as well as celebrities in Hollywood.

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