Attorneys General Competition Ben & Jerry’s West Bank stand – The Forward
Twelve state attorneys general sent a letter to Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, urging them to reverse the ice cream company’s decision to stop selling its products in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
“Today I was proud to lead a 12-state coalition in calling on Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s to end their ill-advised boycott of the State of Israel,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said Monday, who led the coalition. Ben & Jerry’s said it hopes to continue doing business in Israel under a different arrangement.
“If Unilever is so interested in signaling virtue,” Schmitt said, “why not announce a boycott of countries like China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or especially Iran, which has promised the complete destruction of Israel?
Today we led a coalition of 12 states by writing a letter to Unilever urging Ben & Jerry’s to call off their boycott of the State of Israel.
Schmitt’s letter was co-signed by the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Mississippi, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
“Unilever has embarked on an unfortunate and financially ill-advised course of testing the resolve of our states by refusing to prevent Ben & Jerry’s from boycotting parts of the State of Israel,” the letter reads. “Instead, Unilever tried to shirk responsibility for this action by claiming that a relatively small subsidiary of your giant global conglomerate is taking the lead.”
Attorneys General urge Ben & Jerry’s to resume West Bank sales
The letter comes after a number of states with laws banning public investment in companies involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement already threatened or initiated the divestment of Unilever in the wake of the Ben & Jerry’s decision in July to halt sales in the West Bank. New York state decided in October to divest $ 111 million of investments in Unilever from its pension fund as a result of the move, and New Jersey, Florida, Texas and Arizona have also took steps to divest itself of the multinational company.
The letter notes that 33 states have enacted laws against public investment in companies that engage in BDS. “The economic consequences of this reckless boycott should alone be enough to convince Unilever to reconsider,” he said.
Ben & Jerry’s announced in mid-July that it would not renew a license to sell its products in the West Bank. The decision was “a rejection of Israeli policies, which perpetuate an illegal occupation which is a barrier to peace and violates the basic human rights of the Palestinian people who live under the occupation,” wrote Ben & Jerry co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in a guest essay for The New York Times.
Cohen and Greenfield refuted the characterization of their action as a “boycott”.
“I think Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever are described as boycotting Israel, which is not the case at all,” Greenfield said in an interview with Axios in October. “This is by no means a boycott of Israel.
“We are very supportive of Israel’s right to exist, but we are against a particular policy,” Cohen said.