Public officials in at least two Republican-led states vocalized support for Israel in its dispute with Ben & Jerry’s, threatening to invoke state laws to punish companies that advocate or act to boycott, divest, or sanction the key U.S. ally.
Top-ranking officials in Florida and Texas rebuked the ice cream maker after it announced it would no longer sell its products in the West Bank, which it referred to as the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” Israeli officials slammed the decision as being anti-Israel and antisemitic.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and State Comptroller Glenn Hegar echoed that sentiment, threatening to add the ice cream company and its parent, Unilever, to a blacklist of organizations that boycott Israel permanently, making it ineligible for investments from the state’s pension fund.
The state passed its anti-BDS law in 2016 to restrict the state’s relationship with and investment in companies that boycott Israel.
DeSantis requested the Florida Board of Administration start by placing Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on a “continued examination” list of those companies.
“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,” DeSantis wrote in a letter to the agency’s director.
A spokesperson for Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, which has a similar law on the books, called the decision from Ben & Jerry's “disgraceful and an insult to America’s closest ally in the Middle East.”
Hegar, who oversees the state’s pension funds, said he was looking into whether Ben & Jerry’s actions make it and Unilever unfit for investment.
“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,” he told CNBC, referring to the anti-BDS law Abbott signed.
“It is worth noting that thankfully Texans have much better options for a sweet treat this summer," he added. “Blue Bell was founded in Brenham, Texas, and tastes much better than the overpriced, stuck-up stuff made by a foreign-owned company started in Vermont."
Ben & Jerry's said while it will leave the West Bank, it plans to stay in Israel through a different arrangement.
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman