DeSantis won’t let ‘Woke Ideologists’ hurt Israel, Florida for parting ways with Ben & Jerry’s owner

Florida is moving to withdraw state resource investments in Ben & Jerry’s parent company following the company’s decision to shut down operations in disputed Israeli territories.

The state’s board of directors has added London-based Unilever to its list of “reviewed companies” boycotting Israel, Governor Ron DeSantis said on Tuesday.

“In law and in principle, the State of Florida will not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the people of Israel,” the Republican governor said in a statement. “I will not stand idly by while awake corporate ideologues seek to boycott and part ways with our ally, Israel.”

The action means Florida will not invest in or contract with Unilever or its subsidiaries if Ben & Jerry’s does not change its position. The ice cream company announced last month that it would no longer sell its products in disputed Israeli territory, including the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

For more Associated Press reporting, see below.

A man walks past a closed “Ben & Jerry’s” ice cream parlor in the Israeli town of Yavne, about 30 kilometers south of Tel Aviv, July 23, 2021. – On July 19, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s announced that ‘it no longer sells its ice cream in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, namely the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which have been under the control of the Jewish state since 1967. More than 670,000 Jewish settlers live in the two territories, in communities widely considered illegal under international law.

Company founders Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield said in a recent New York Times opinion piece that they no longer control the company but endorse action in Israel as reflecting their progressive values. The company has a long history of advocating for social justice.

“We are also proud Jews. It’s part of who we are and how we’ve identified ourselves throughout our lives. As our business began to expand internationally, Israel was one of our first overseas markets. We were then, and remain today, supporters of the State of Israel, ”said the founders. “But it is possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we have opposed the policies of the US government.”

Unilever’s 400 brands include a wide variety of everyday consumer goods such as Dove personal care products, Lipton tea, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Sunlight soap and, of course, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday on the Florida stock. But its CEO, Alan Jope, said last week that Unilever was “fully committed” to doing business in Israel despite the decision to halt some sales of Ben & Jerry’s there.

Florida officials said the company told them in a phone call Wednesday that there were no plans to change Ben & Jerry’s stance on Israel. It was not immediately clear what types of investments or contracts Florida currently has with Unilever or its subsidiaries.

“We will continue to work with the SBA to ensure Florida law enforcement for those who target our friends in Israel,” said Jimmy Patronis, Florida chief financial officer.

Israel does not differentiate between settlements in the West Bank and the rest of its territory. When home rental company Airbnb announced in 2018 that it would no longer list properties in the West Bank, Israel harshly condemned the move and ultimately pressured the company to reverse the decision.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations Gilad Erdan recently sent a letter to governors of 35 U.S. states urging them to punish Unilever under anti-boycott laws like Florida’s.

Divestment of Ben & Jerry's in Florida
FILE – In this file photo from Tuesday, July 20, 2021, an Israeli is shopping at the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in the Be’er Tuvia industrial area in southern Israel. On Thursday, July 22, 2021, Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, said the global consumer goods giant remained “fully committed” to doing business in Israel, distancing himself from this week’s announcement by the cream brand. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company to stop serving Israel. West Bank settlements. Jope has given no indication that Unilever will force Ben & Jerry’s to reverse their controversial decision.
Tsafrir Abayov, File / AP Photo

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