update deskBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Arizona first state to divest from Unilever over Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream boycott

“We are delighted that the state sees boycotts against Israel for what they are—a form of anti-Semitism,” said Israel’s Consul General to the Southwest Hillel Newman.

The Arizona State Capitol. Credit: Shutterstock.
The Arizona State Capitol. Credit: Shutterstock.

Arizona moved to divest from Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, over the ice-cream maker’s decision to stop selling its products in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem, becoming the first state to take such action.

Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced on Tuesday that the state will pull some $143 million of investments from the multinational firm by Sept. 21.

“As Arizona Treasurer, I’ve divested all state funds from Ben & Jerry’s for boycotting Israel,” Yee announced on Twitter. “Israel is and will continue to be a major trade partner of AZ. I will not allow taxpayer dollars to go towards anti-Semitic, discriminatory efforts against Israel.”

According to a statement from her office, Yee said, “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.”

Under Arizona law, the state cannot conduct business with any person or company that boycotts Israel, including limiting commercial operations in Israel or territory controlled by Israel. Some 34 states have passed or enacted anti-BDS laws in recent years, and 21 of those states also include Israeli settlement boycotts in their definitions.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations released a statement saying, “We remain deeply disappointed that Unilever, a company with a long-standing presence in Israel, will not overturn the discriminatory action by its Ben & Jerry’s subsidiary. The majority of American states recognize that boycotting Israel is not only discriminatory activity, it’s also bad for business and negatively impacts Israelis as well as Palestinians.”

Several other states have also announced reviews that could lead to divesting from Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s, including New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Maryland and Rhode Island.

Israel’s Consul General to the Southwest Hillel Newman, who met with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in late July on the issue, told JNS that he welcomed the decision.

“We are delighted that the state of Arizona, under the leadership of a true friend of Israel, Governor Ducey, the attorney general and the team see boycotts against Israel for what they are—a form of anti-Semitism,” said Newman.

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