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Texas, Florida Consider Divesting from Ben & Jerry’s Over Israel Boycott

An Israeli shops at the Ben & Jerry's ice-cream factory in the Be'er Tuvia Industrial area, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
An Israeli shops at the Ben & Jerry's ice-cream factory in the Be'er Tuvia Industrial area, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

JERUSALEM, Israel - Texas and Florida are considering divesting from Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry's, over its decision to stop selling ice cream in what it calls "Occupied Palestinian Territory."

 Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced on Thursday that he has directed his staff to determine whether the company violated the state's anti-BDS law.

“If it is determined that Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever has engaged in any activities proscribed under Chapter 808 of the Texas Government Code, my office will take all appropriate and required actions consistent with our policies and procedures,” Glenn Hegar said in a statement.

In 2017, Texas passed a law that requires it to divest pension funds from companies that boycott Israel or Israeli settlement communities in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank - biblical Judea and Samaria. 

 The law defines boycotting Israel as "refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or otherwise taking any action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or an Israeli-controlled territory."

The law also requires Texas to blacklist companies that boycott Israel from other contracts with the state. 

 "Texans have made it very clear that they stand with Israel and its people. We oppose actions that could undermine Israel's economy and its people,"Hegar said. 

Florida is also jumping in the fight. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday called on the State Board of Administration to “immediately place Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on the Continued Examination Companies that Boycott Israel List” and initiate the process to place both companies “on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.”

“As you know, Florida has long had a strong relationship with the State of Israel,” DeSantis wrote in a letter to the State Board of Administration. “As a matter of law and principle, the State of Florida does not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the Israeli people, including boycotts and divestments targeting Israel. 

Ben & Jerry's made waves this week when it announced it would stop selling its products in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem because continuing to do so is “inconsistent with its values.”

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The decision is one of the most high-profile condemnations by a well-known Western company of Israel’s settlement communities.

The anti-Israel BDS movement, which advocates for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish State, applauded Ben & Jerry’s decision as “a decisive step towards ending the company's complicity in Israel's occupation and violations of Palestinian rights,” but called upon the company to do more.
 “We hope that Ben & Jerry's has understood that, in harmony with its social justice commitments, there can be no business as usual with apartheid Israel,” a statement read. 

Israeli leaders railed against the decision.

 Gilad Erdan, Israel's ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, sent a letter to 35 US state governors that have enacted legislation against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement urging them to take action against Ben & Jerry's.

In a phone call with the CEO of Unilever, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed to have a "vigorous" response to the company's settlement boycott and said the decision has “serious legal and other implications.”

Why does Judaism matter and how is it connected to Christianity? Learn more here.

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