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April 13, 2023
Ben and Jerry’s and their parent company, Unilever, could be removed from Florida in the next few months if they don’t change their stance on conducting business in Israel.
On July 22, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wrote a letter to Ash Williams, the Executive Director & Chief Investment Officer of Florida, requesting that Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever be added to Florida’s List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel. On August 2, Williams announced that the two companies had been added to the list. Williams and the State Board of Administration of Florida contacted Unilever to inform them that as the parent company of Ben and Jerry’s, they would be affected by a Florida ban.
Unilever revealed they had no plans to intervene in Ben and Jerry’s boycott of Israel. Ben and Jerry’s has 90 days from the time of being placed on the list to end its Israel boycott. If they don’t, the State of Florida will place Unilever under an investment prohibition and will not enter contracts with Unilever or any of its subsidiaries.
On July 19, Ben and Jerry’s released a statement announcing they no longer intended to sell their ice cream on the West Bank, which they called Occupied Palestinian Territory. As such, they had informed their manufacturer in that region that they would not be renewing the contract at the end of 2022. The company has been known for its social justice work in the past.
On July 28, the founders of Ben and Jerry’s wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times. “We are also proud Jews. It’s part of who we are and how we’ve identified ourselves for our whole lives. As our company began to expand internationally, Israel was one of our first overseas markets. 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.”
While Ben and Jerry’s sees a difference between Israel and the West Bank, which they allege is stolen land, the nation of Israel does not differentiate. In 2018, Airbnb announced it would no longer list West Bank homes on its website. In response, Israel denounced the move and ended up pushing the company to reverse its decision.
Gilad Erden, Israel’s ambassador to the United States and United Nations, recently wrote a letter to 35 U.S. states, pleading with them to penalize Unilever for its support of Ben and Jerry’s under anti-boycott laws. Florida is the first to heed Erden’s request.
ARTICLE: RITA VOGT
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NY1.COM