Upon Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ request, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, was added to Florida’s List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel yesterday by the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA).
On July 22nd, DeSantis sent a letter to SBA Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer Ash Williams requesting that the SBA initiate the process of placing Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, on the list following the company’s announcement that it would remove its products and prohibit the sale of its ice cream in Judea and Samaria. If a company does not cease its boycott of Israel within 90 days of being placed on the list, it becomes subject to an investment prohibition and the State of Florida will not contract with the company or its subsidiaries.
“As a matter of law and principle, the State of Florida will not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the Israeli people,” said DeSantis. “By placing Ben & Jerry’s Fortune 500 parent company Unilever on our List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel, Florida is sending a message to corporate America that we will defend our strong relationship with the Jewish State. I will not stand idly by as woke corporate ideologues seek to boycott and divest from our ally, Israel.”
“Israel is a friend of Florida, it’s a thriving democracy with incredible people and culture and Ben & Jerry’s decision to very publicly discriminate against Israel was a shortsighted attempt to virtue signal to folks on the radical left,” said Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis. “Thanks to Governor DeSantis for upholding Florida law and sending a strong message to companies everywhere that if you’ve got a problem with Israel, the State of Florida has a problem with you. The second Ben & Jerry’s decided to discriminate against Israel, it affected Florida’s ability to make investments with its parent company. We’ll continue working with the SBA to ensure Florida law is upheld for those who target our friends in Israel.”
Following the receipt of DeSantis’ letter calling for an investigation of Ben & Jerry’s intention to stop selling its products in what Unilever calls the “occupied Palestinian territories” of Israel, the SBA contacted Unilever’s investor relations team and conducted an engagement call with them on July 28th. During this call, the SBA was informed that Unilever had no plans to prevent Ben & Jerry’s from terminating its business activities in Israel. On that same day, the founders of the company, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, published an op-ed in the New York Times.
They wrote, “We are the founders of Ben & Jerry’s. 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. As such, we unequivocally support the decision of the company to end business in the occupied territories, which a majority of the international community, including the United Nations, has deemed an illegal occupation.”
They asserted they are proud of what they consider to be the company’s “especially brave” actions which “align its business and operations with its progressive values.”
The Governor’s office said, “There is nothing progressive about boycotting the only democracy in the Middle East.”
According to a release from the Governor’s office, the SBA will send Unilever a written notice informing the company of its scrutinized company status. If Ben & Jerry’s does not cease its boycott of Israel within 90 days of being placed on the list, Unilever will become subject to an investment prohibition and the State of Florida will not contract with Unilever or its subsidiaries.
“Given the guidance from Unilever’s investor relations team and the vociferous statements of Ben and Jerry themselves supporting their eponymous company’s decision to engage in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, it appears likely that these punitive measures will go into effect,” according to the Governor’s office.
The ice cream company founders said Unilever’s decision to halt sales in the territories was not a boycott of Israel and that they don’t endorse the BDS movement, which, according to the BDS website, “works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.”
The founders of Ben & Jerry’s said, “The company’s stated decision to more fully align its operations with its values is not a rejection of Israel. It is a rejection of Israeli policy, which perpetuates an illegal occupation that is a barrier to peace and violates the basic human rights of the Palestinian people who live under the occupation. As Jewish supporters of the State of Israel, we fundamentally reject the notion that it is anti-Semitic to question the policies of the State of Israel.”
The Governor’s office said DeSantis will continue to call for all companies that seek to boycott or divest from the State of Israel to be placed on the State of Florida’s List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel.
“By implementing these measures against Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever, the State of Florida is seeking to deter any other woke corporation that might consider doing the same,” the Governor’s press release said.