Governor DeSantis targets Ben & Jerry’s for his plan to boycott the occupied territories

Gov. Ron DeSantis has threatened to sanction progressive ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever for the company’s decision to stop selling its products in the occupied West Bank.

DeSantis said in a letter Thursday night to Ash Williams, who manages the state’s investments, that the company’s decision to pull out of what the governor has called the biblical names “Judea and Samaria” is “squarely” falling. of a state law targeting the so-called “boycott, divestment and sanctions”, or BDS, movement.

The law prohibits the state from investing or awarding contracts to companies “terminating business activities, or taking other measures to limit business relations with Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israel. or in territories under Israeli control, in a discriminatory manner ”.

The law refers to “scrutinized companies”, which must first be given the opportunity to withdraw from a boycott.

“In law and in principle, the State of Florida does not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the people of Israel, including boycotts and divestments against Israel,” DeSantis wrote.

DeSantis and members of the Florida cabinet serve as the state board of directors, with ultimate authority over investment strategy.

“If the state board of directors places Unilever and its companies on the list of companies reviewed and those companies do not stop boycotting Israel as required by Florida law, the board must refrain from ” acquire all of Unilever’s assets in accordance with the law. “, wrote the governor.

The state has invested around $ 124 million in companies, according to John Kuczwanski, the investment agency’s director of external affairs, against total investments of more than $ 200 billion. The law does not require the divestment of funds placed in controlled companies, he said.

DeSantis and the Cabinet took a similar stance soon after taking office, threatening sanctions against Airbnb after removing its listings in the West Bank, which Israel has administered since the Six Day War in 1967. The company eventually backed down.

According to Amnesty International, the Israeli government has displaced Palestinians living in the area through forced house demolitions and other forms of coercion; made arbitrary arrests and practiced torture; and discriminates against Palestinian residents of the territories and Israel itself.

“We believe it is incompatible with our values ​​that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is sold in the occupied Palestinian territory,” the company said in a statement written on Monday. The company said it plans to continue sales in Israel proper.

DeSantis, a conservative Republican, aspires to be the most pro-Israel governor in the United States and, in May of his first year in office, led an economic development mission to the country, including excursions to the occupied zone. .

Cabinet CFO Jimmy Patronis wrote to Ben & Jerry’s Thursday warning him that “Ben & Jerry’s brazen refusal to do business in Israel will result in your placement on the list of controlled companies boycotting Israel.” .

He gave the company until September 19 to declare his intentions. This is the date of the next scheduled Cabinet meeting.

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