Backlash in some US states against Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever for the ice cream company’s boycott of Israel has begun, with several states considering divesting from the companies.
“Ben and Jerry’s decision to boycott parts of Israel is disgraceful and an insult to America’s closest ally in the Middle East,” a spokesman for GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told CNBC on Tuesday night.
Texas passed a bill into law in 2017 that requires Texas pension funds to divest from any companies boycotting Israel. According to Bloomberg, the Texas pension fund is worth over $100 million, and Unilever is part of its portfolio.
“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,” Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar told CNBC.
“If it is determined that Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever has engaged in any activities proscribed under Chapter 808 of the Texas Government Code, my office will take all appropriate and required actions consistent with our policies and procedures,” Hegar later said in a statement.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis called on the State Board of Administration (SBA) to immediately place Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on the Continued Examination Companies that Boycott Israel List and begin the process of placing both companies on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.
In a letter Desantis sent to the State Board of Administration of Florida, he wrote: “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.”
“These actions affirm the State of Florida’s relationship with the State of Israel and our commitment to a swift response to those who discriminate against the Israeli people,” DeSantis concluded.
Chief Financial Officer of Florida Jimmy Patronis on Thursday sent a letter to Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy, stating: “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. If placed on the list, the State of Florida will be prohibited from investing in Ben & Jerry’s or its parent company, Unilever.”
In Oklahoma, Rep. Sen. James Lankford called on his state to block the sale of all Ben & Jerry’s products.
Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project and co-founder of the End Jew Hatred movement, told JNS that Unilever could possibly incur significant financial penalties in the wake of Ben & Jerry’s boycott.
“By virtue of its wayward subsidiary, Unilever—a massive international conglomerate—risks potentially crushing financial consequences in terms of its ability to receive investments from, or do business with, the majority of U.S. states,” she said.
Additionally, Alyza Lewin, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, told JNS that the anti-BDS laws are not the only route available.
“Unilever might also experience consequences if legal action is instituted by private parties in U.S. courts. And, of course, private boycotts in the United States by upset consumers can impact Unilever’s business as well.”
Earlier this week, Israel’s Ambassador to the US and the United Nations Gilad Erdan sent letters to the 35 governors of US states that have laws against BDS, calling on them to take legal action against Ben & Jerry’s in accordance with their state laws.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)