Two states look at banning Ben & Jerry’s ice cream over West Bank boycott, others may follow

At least two Republican-led states are now considering banning Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after the company announced on Monday that it would no longer sell its ice cream in “occupied Palestinian territory.”

Both Texas and Florida officials have come out against Ben & Jerry’s, threatening to invoke state laws to punish companies that advocate or act to boycott, divest, or sanction Israel. America’s strongest ally has decried the ice cream giant’s move as anti-Israel and antisemitic.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar are threatening to add Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, to a blacklist of organizations that boycott Israel. That would make both companies ineligible for investments from the states’ pension funds. Florida passed an anti-BDS law in 2016 that limited interaction with companies that boycott Israel. DeSantis has formally requested that the Florida Board of Administration place the ice cream company and Unilver on a “continued examination” list.

“Should the State Board of Administration affirmatively place Unilever and its corporate entities on the Scrutinized Companies List and these companies do not cease the boycott of Israel as required by Florida law, the Board must refrain from acquiring any and all Unilever assets consistent with the law,” DeSantis noted in a letter.

(Video Credit: CBS Miami)

“As you know, Florida has long had a strong relationship with the State of Israel,” DeSantis said. “As a matter of law and principle, the State of Florida does not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the Israeli people, including boycotts and divestments targeting Israel.”

Florida state CFO Jimmy Patronis, who oversees public pension funds, declared that his office is already discussing the issue.

Thursday, in a letter sent to Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy, he wrote, “It is my belief that Ben & Jerry’s brazen refusal to do business in Israel will result in your placement on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.”

Hegar, who controls billions of dollars in assets for Texas’ public pension funds is already taking action. In a statement, he said, “I’ve directed my staff to determine whether any specific action has been taken by Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever would trigger a listing under Chapter 808 of the Texas Government Code.”

“Texans have made it very clear that they stand with Israel and its people,” he said. “We oppose actions that could undermine Israel’s economy and its people. I wish to thank Representative Phil King for his ongoing support of these efforts. My office has a long history of supporting Israel through our bond holdings and the Comptroller’s list of scrutinized companies with ties to Iran, as well as those with ties to foreign terrorist organizations.”

“It is worth noting that thankfully Texans have much better options for a sweet treat this summer,” Hegar added. “Blue Bell was founded in Brenham, Texas, and tastes much better than the overpriced, stuck-up stuff made by a foreign-owned company started in Vermont.”

Governor Abbott of Texas is also going after Ben & Jerry’s. His spokesperson states that Texas has a similar law in place and called the decision by Ben & Jerry’s “disgraceful.”

“Ben and Jerry’s decision to boycott parts of Israel is disgraceful and an insult to America’s closest ally in the Middle East,” Abbott said in a statement Tuesday night relayed from a spokesman to CNBC. “Unilever, Ben and Jerry’s parent company, must reverse this ill-conceived decision.”

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) is also calling for his state to block the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, “#Benandjerrys has now decided they know more about Jerusalem than the Israelis. If Ben & Jerry’s wants to have a meltdown & boycott Israel, OK is ready to respond. Oklahoma has an anti-boycott of Israel law in place,” Lankford declared in a statement on Twitter Wednesday. “We should immediately block the sale of all #Benandjerrys in the state and in any state-operated facility to align with our law.”

Ben & Jerry’s stated while it will leave the West Bank, the company plans to stay in Israel through a different type of arrangement.

After Ben & Jerry’s made their statement, Unilever released one of their own Monday saying “we remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands, and business for several decades.”

Israel’s new prime minister did not pull his punches over the boycott, “This is an action that has severe consequences, including legal, and it (Israel) will take strong action against any boycott directed against its citizens.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog called it “economic terrorism.”

 

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