Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered his board of directors to put Unilever on its list of “under investigation”, which consists of companies participating in the boycott of Israel following a decision by subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s to suspend the sale in to end the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem last month
Florida has placed Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever on its list of “companies under investigation” following the ice cream maker’s decision to halt sales in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made the announcement Tuesday after ordering the state board of directors to list the company, which consists of companies that participate in boycotts of Israel or restrict commercial activity with the Jewish state. .
The designation means Unilever has 90 days to force Ben & Jerry’s to undo the boycott or become subject to a ban on state investment in the company and against entering into contracts with the company or its subsidiaries.
Perhaps most painfully for the company, it could mean Florida banning state pension funds from making investments in Unilever.
“By law and principle, the State of Florida will not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the Israeli people,” DeSantis said in a statement Tuesday. “By putting Ben & Jerry’s Fortune 500 parent company Unilever on our list of controlled companies that boycott Israel, Florida is sending a message to corporate America that we will defend our strong relationship with the Jewish state.”
The decision would mean Unilever has 90 days to force Ben & Jerry’s to end the boycott or avoid a ban on the state’s state investment in the company and avoid contracting with the company or its subsidiaries. Pictured is Ben & Jerry’s main factory in Beer Tuvia, Israel on July 22
The solar state is home to a relatively large Jewish population of 657,095 who reside permanently in the state, the third highest in the union behind New York and California.
Other companies to be included on Florida’s list include Airbnb, which in 2018 announced it would stop listing properties in the West Bank.
DeSantis first ordered his State Board of Administration to list Unilever on July 22, three days after Ben & Jerry’s announced it would discontinue ice cream sales in the disputed areas, saying they were “inconsistent with our values.” ‘.
Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Bennett Cohen (left) and Jerry Greenfield (right), who sold the company to Unilever in 2000, supported their decision
Unilever CEO Alan Jope (pictured above in New York in 2019) said that while his company remains “fully committed” to Israel, it cannot force its subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s, to backtrack on its decision to stop selling ice cream in Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s office said it would investigate to blacklist Ben & Jerry’s, banning it from doing business with the state in response to its Palestine policies
The board says it made an “engagement call” with Unilever Investor Relations on July 28, in which the company told them it “currently has no plan to prevent Ben & Jerry’s from ending business in Israel-controlled areas.” .
The call came the same day, DeSantis noted in his Tuesday announcement, when Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who co-founded the ice cream chain in 1978 and sold it to Unilever in 2000, endorsed the decision in an op-ed for the The New York Times.
“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 throughout our lives. As our company began to expand internationally, Israel was one of our first overseas markets. We were then, and still are, supporters of the State of Israel,” Cohen and Greenfield wrote.
“But it is possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we have opposed the policies of the US government.”
Unilever chief executive Alan Jope has distanced himself from his subsidiary’s decision, saying in a conference call with investors on July 22 that the global consumer goods giant remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel.
But Jope gave no indication that Unilever would force Ben & Jerry’s to reverse its controversial decision.
Other recent executive actions taken by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
July 30: An executive order bans schools in the state from requiring masks to be worn
July 9: An executive order waives tax payment deadline for survivors of the deadly Champlain Towers South collapse
July 3: An executive order declaring a state of emergency over Tropical Storm Elsa
June 24: An executive order declaring a state of emergency in Miami-Dade County after the deadly collapse of Champlain Towers South
June 16: An executive order to pardon companies that have violated Covid-19 restrictions
May 11: An executive order declaring a state of emergency over the colonial pipeline hack
May 3: An executive order ending all state Covid-19 mandates
April 2: An executive order prohibiting companies from requiring customers to show vaccination certificate or ‘vaccine passports’
Ben & Jerry’s announcement is one of the strongest moves by a well-known company against Israeli settlements, which the international community considers illegal.
The Israeli government has condemned the decision, accusing the company of participating in a Palestinian-led boycott campaign against Israel.
It has urged 35 US states with anti-boycott laws to punish Unilever.
In addition to Florida, Texas could blacklist Ben & Jerry’s as punishment for the move.
The office of Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has announced it will investigate whether the company has violated Chapter 808 of the Texas Government Code, which prohibits the state from giving contracts to companies that boycott Israel.
“Texans have made it very clear that they stand behind Israel and its people. We are against all those who want to undermine the economy and the people of Israel,” Hegar said Dallas Morning News.
Jope said Ben & Jerry’s, which has a long history of social activism, made the decision on its own.
He noted that under its purchase agreement with Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, the iconic ice cream company retained broad independence over its social justice policies and that Unilever respected that arrangement.
“It is clearly a complex and sensitive issue that evokes very strong feelings,” he said.
“If there is one message I would like to underline in this appeal, it is that Unilever remains fully committed to our operations in Israel.”
That includes a new $41 million razor factory, offices and facilities that employ some 2,000 people, hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and support for “social programs,” he said.
He said ‘it is not our intention’ to discuss such sensitive matters on a regular basis.
“It’s been a problem for Ben & Jerry’s for a long time,” he said.
“We were aware of this decision by the brand and its independent board of directors, but it is certainly not our intention that every quarter will have one as fiery as this one.”
Florida State Board of Administration Says Unilever Violated Its Law Banning Companies from Participating in Boycotts of Israel