Arizona Treasurer Inspired National Movement to Divest Companies Boycotting Israel

September 1, 2022

By Corinne Murdock |

By Corinne Murdock

Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee divested $143 million from Unilever because its subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s, boycotted Israel — inspiring multiple other states to follow suit. Arizona law prohibits state funds from going to entities that boycott Israel.

In the weeks after Yee’s decision, Texas, New Jersey, New York, and Florida pulled their investments from Unilever. Altogether, their divestments totaled well over $500 million. Yee said the series of events were a testament to Arizona’s leadership in an interview with AZ Free News.

“It was truly a movement,” said Yee.

These divestments all occurred last fall, but it wasn’t until late June that Unilever decided to sell Ben & Jerry’s in the Israel area, effectively ending boycott. Yee recounted how Unilever informed her immediately that they sold their Ben & Jerry’s business in the West Bank to an Israeli-owned manufacturing company. However, Yee explained that she was hesitant to reinvest in Unilever because of their delay in complying. Yee issued the ultimatum last September.

“My response to them was, ‘What took you so long?’” said Yee.

Yee observed that Unilever ultimately realized the great financial risk that came with supporting Ben & Jerry’s political activism.

“The response by Unilever was such that they thought there are dollars to be lost by partnering with a company, Ben & Jerry’s, that doesn’t stand with American values,” said Yee.

Yee added that her hesitation was vindicated when Ben & Jerry’s decided to sue Unilever. The ice cream giant requested an injunction, arguing that Unilever’s move to resume Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sales throughout Israel violated its core values. Ben & Jerry’s lost their case last Monday. 

That means the ice cream giant doesn’t own and won’t profit from its brand in Israel.

Ben & Jerry’s announced its boycott last July. The company asserted that Israel was occupying the West Bank and Gaza illegally, which it recognized as the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The company’s plan was to end its partnership with the licensee that manufactured and distributed its ice cream in Israel. The license agreement would’ve expired at the end of this year.

At the time, Ben & Jerry’s denied that their boycott was part of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. They claimed that they would stay in Israel through a different business arrangement, which they haven’t clarified.

The company pledged to disclose this new arrangement before the end of this year, according to what Unilever told Reuters in February. It appears that the arrangement either never came to fruition, or a satisfactory one wasn’t produced by the end of June, when Unilever announced it would sell Ben & Jerry’s in Israel. 

Unilever may not be the only company that Arizona won’t invest in due to Israel boycotts. This past week, Yee announced that Morningstar, a major global financial services company, may be placed on the state’s list of prohibited investments if it doesn’t prove that its subsidiary, Sustainalytics, isn’t boycotting Israel. Although Arizona doesn’t have public funds invested in Morningstar currently, it would prevent future investments. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to​

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