By Corinne Murdock
Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced Tuesday that the state will no longer invest funds in ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s, due to its violation of state law with its Israel boycott. Arizona law outlaws any state funds from going to entities that boycott Israel.
Arizona’s Unilever investments have dropped from $143 million to around $50 million currently. All investments will be removed by September 21.
In a press release, Yee explained that Ben & Jerry’s parent company, the British conglomerate Unilever PLC, refused to reverse the boycott or divest itself of the ice cream company.
“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,” said Yee. “It does not matter how much investment Unilever PLC has in Israel, with Ben & Jerry’s decision to no longer sell its product in the West Bank, the companies are in violation of the law in Arizona. Arizona will not do business with companies that are attempting to undermine Israel’s economy and blatantly disregarding Arizona’s law.”
Yee denounced the actions of Ben & Jerry’s in a follow-up tweet to the press release. She denounced the boycott as anti-Semitic and discriminatory.
“As Arizona Treasurer, I’ve divested all state funds from Ben & Jerry’s for boycotting Israel. Israel is and will continue to be a major trade partner of AZ,” wrote Yee. “ #IStandWithIsrael and I will not allow taxpayer dollars to go towards anti-Semitic, discriminatory efforts against Israel.”
Ben & Jerry’s announced their boycott in mid-July. They claimed that Israeli forces were illegally occupying Palestinian territory. They also stated that their end to ice cream sales wasn’t technically a boycott – that they would remain in Israel through “a different business arrangement.” The company promised to divulge further details about this arrangement, but have yet to do so.
Ben & Jerry’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, also argued that their decision to withdraw from Israel wasn’t antisemitic. Rather, they said that they rejected Israel’s policy of occupation.
“The company’s stated decision to more fully align its operations with its values is not a rejection of Israel. It is a rejection of Israeli policy, which perpetuates an illegal occupation that is a barrier to peace and violates the basic human rights of the Palestinian people who live under the occupation,” stated Cohen and Greenfield. “As Jewish supporters of the State of Israel, we fundamentally reject the notion that it is antisemitic to question the policies of the State of Israel.”
This is far from the first of the ice cream giant’s clear declaration of its political stance. They are consistently political.
Following George Floyd’s death last year, Ben & Jerry’s called for people to dismantle white supremacy, and told white people to examine their privilege and pay reparations.
After the January 6 incident at the Capitol, Ben & Jerry’s issued a flurry of social media posts and statements calling for then-President Donald Trump’s impeachment. They asserted that the rioters were advocating for white supremacy.
In February, the company unveiled a mural of National Anthem-kneeler, Black Lives Matter (BLM) activist, ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick.
They’ve also released statements in support of trans rights, reparations, BLM, and illegal immigration (especially through their partnership with Migrant Justice’s Milk with Dignity – an organization that advocates for illegal immigrants).