Dr Mike Evans

US state divests from Ben & Jerry’s over decision to stop sales in Israeli settlements

The State of Arizona has announced divestment of public funds from Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, following its decision to stop sales in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem in the strongest anti-BDS move taken by a US state to date.

“I gave Unilever PLC, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, an ultimatum: reverse the action of Ben & Jerry’s or divest itself of Ben & Jerry’s to come into compliance with Arizona law or face the consequences. They chose the latter,” Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee said in a statement.

“It does not matter how much investment Unilever PLC has in Israel, with Ben & Jerry’s decision to no longer sell its product in the West Bank, the companies are in violation of the law in Arizona,” she added.

“As Arizona treasurer, I’ve divested all state funds from Ben & Jerry’s for boycotting Israel,” Yee tweeted. “Israel is and will continue to be a major trade partner of AZ. #IStandWithIsrael and I will not allow taxpayer dollars to go toward antisemitic, discriminatory efforts against Israel.”

Ben & Jerry’s announced July 19 it would no longer would sell products in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem. It referred to the areas as “Occupied Palestinian Territory” in the announcement. 

“We reject and repudiate all forms of hate and racism,” Ben & Jerry’s said in a statement.

“Our decision to exit the OPT was based on our belief that it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s to be present within an internationally recognized illegal occupation. Speaking and acting on our values is neither anti-Israel nor antisemitic.”

The decision was based on a 2016 Arizona law that sought to show support to Israel and to oppose the antisemitic BDS movement. “This bill is aimed at showing Arizona’s support of Israel, its strongest ally in the Middle East,” then-Republican state rep David Gowan said at the time, according to Tuscon.com. “Nobody should be doing things for bigotry.”

Arizona had reportedly invested $143 million in Unilever, according to the Center Square. The investment will end by September 21, according to Lee’s announcement. The state is one of eight in America that currently has an anti-BDS law in effect. The full statement is available online.