(April 28, 2022, Charleston, West Virginia, JNS Wire) On April 27, 2022, West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore called on Unilever to override the boycott against Israel currently being conducted by its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s. Treasurer Moore confirmed that West Virginia’s Board of Treasury has no current investments in Unilever and assured that there will be no investment of taxpayer funds until Unilever reverses Ben & Jerry’s discriminatory boycott of Israel.
On July 19, 2021, Ben & Jerry’s, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilever, announced that it would terminate its sales to Israeli-controlled territories, including eastern Jerusalem and Judaism’s holiest sites. By ordering its licensee to boycott sales to Israelis in certain parts of Israel, Ben & Jerry’s knowingly demanded its licensee to violate Israeli anti-discrimination law, which prohibits its companies from refusing to sell to any Israelis, of any religion, based on their area of residence. Therefore, the boycott of any part of Israel becomes a boycott of all of Israel.
Unilever’s claim that it had no authority to override Ben & Jerry’s discrimination against Israel was challenged in a joint letter by the Israeli-American Coalition for Action (IAC for Action) and StandWithUs (SWU) as well as by key legal experts. In fact, the acquisition agreement provides Unilever multiple avenues to exercise authority to reverse the boycott. Treasurer Moore called on Unilever to “to step in and take control of this situation… Unilever’s inaction can be interpreted as tacit support for Ben & Jerry’s boycott of the country.”
Treasurer Moore called Unilever’s inaction a “dangerous precedent” not only because it discriminates against a valued ally and trading partner but also because it questions Unilever’s commitment to its fiduciary responsibilities. “I’m deeply concerned by the management philosophy of any company that participates in a harmful boycott of Israel and have confirmed that no Unilever securities are held with the taxpayer funds invested by my Office,” Treasurer Moore said.
Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs CEO, welcomes the action by West Virginia. “Thirty-five states have anti-boycott legislation to protect their economies from boycotting a valued trading partner and their citizens from engaging in de facto discrimination. Consequently, we are witnessing states divesting from Unilever and now investigating whether Unilever’s failure to override Ben & Jerry’s boycott directly implicates the company as an active participant in the boycott. A boycott is not only a display of bigotry against the Jewish state, but also bad policy for doing business.”
Michael and Samuel Ashner, leaders of the Coalition to Hold Unilever Accountable, praised Treasurer Moore’s “leadership and action to hold Unilever accountable for Ben & Jerry’s boycott. It shows the power that states have to support democracy around the world and stand with Israel. His leadership on passing and enforcing West Virginia’s anti-BDS law have been influential.”