Arizona is 8th state to weigh sanctioning Ben & Jerry’s over settlement boycott

Treasurer asks ice cream manufacturer’s parent company to comply with 2016 law, which requires state entities to divest from firms boycotting Israel or settlements

Ice cream containers at the Ben and Jerry's factory near Kiryat Malakhi, on July 21, 2021. (Flash90)
Ice cream containers at the Ben and Jerry's factory near Kiryat Malakhi, on July 21, 2021. (Flash90)

JTA — Arizona has become the eighth state to begin reviewing whether Ben & Jerry’s plans to withdraw from doing business in the West Bank merits sanctions under its law targeting the Israel boycott movement.

In emails obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the state’s treasurer last week asked Unilever, the ice cream manufacturer’s parent company, to comply with its 2016 law. It requires state entities, including pension funds, to divest from companies boycotting Israel or businesses in territories under Israel’s control, explicitly including the West Bank. The treasurer’s office gave Unilever 90 days to do so.

Unilever has stated that it hopes to continue doing business in Israel proper and opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and the founders of Ben & Jerry’s have said they do not endorse BDS but oppose Israel’s “illegal occupation.” However, is not clear if Ben and Jerry’s will continue to be available in Israel when the ban takes effect at the end of next year either, as Israeli law forbids discrimination against Israeli citizens in the territories.

There are 34 states in total that require their governments to stop doing business with companies that boycott Israel — and 21 of those, like Arizona, include West Bank settlement boycotts in their definitions.

So far eight states are known to have triggered similar reviews that could result in divesting from Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever. In addition to Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Maryland and Rhode Island have launched formal proceedings.

“This is significant because Arizona is a major trade partner with Israel,” IAC For Action, the legislative and policymaking arm of the Israeli-American Council, which initiated the review with a formal request, said in a statement.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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