States Line Up to Boycott Ben & Jerry's West Bank Stance

Aug. 3, 2021
Florida, Texas, New York are considering bans on their business dealings with Ben & Jerry's and its parent Unilever.

At least three states are considering bans on their business dealings with Ben & Jerry's and its parent Unilever for the rebel ice cream company's decision to stop selling ice cream in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.

All three states, and perhaps 30 more, have laws against using public funds for companies deemed hostile to Israel.

Interestingly, the ice cream company’s Jewish-American founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who sold the company to Unilever in 2000, said in a July 28 New York Times opinion piece that they support the company's action.

"We are the founders of Ben & Jerry’s. We are also proud Jews. It’s part of who we are and how we’ve identified ourselves for our whole lives. … We were then, and remain today, supporters of the State of Israel.

"But it’s possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we’ve opposed policies of the U.S. government," they wrote. "As such, we unequivocally support the decision of the company to end business in the occupied territories, which a majority of the international community, including the United Nations, has deemed an illegal occupation."

Ben & Jerry's announced in a July 19 tweet that it will stop selling ice cream in the West Bank/Occupied Palestinian Territory because "We believe it is inconsistent with our values." Israel has been condemned the world over for seizing Palestinian properties and building settlements in the West Bank, which it occupied after the 1967 war.

Today (Aug. 3) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the State Board of Administration added London-based Unilever to its list of “scrutinized companies” that boycott Israel, according to the Associated Press. This means that if Ben & Jerry’s position on Israel is not reversed in 90 days, Florida will not invest in or contract with Unilever or its subsidiaries.

Last week, Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar directed his staff to examine statements by B&J and Unilever to see if they violate a 2017 state law, under which Texas forbids state or local governments to contract with companies that have “boycotted” Israel.

That law also appears to require the state's $27 billion Employee Retirement System and the $165 billion Teacher Retirement System of Texas to sell off any stock they have within a year, according to Texas Public Radio.

The state of New York reportedly is considering similar action, and the $254 billion New York Common Retirement Fund has already warned Unilever that it could restrict investment going forward.

In recent years, more than 30 U.S. states have passed legislation against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates for global boycotts to pressure Israel over its occupation and treatment of Palestinians.

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