Unilever Reverses Ben & Jerry’s Israel Boycott; Arizona Treasurer Hesitant to Reinvest

Unilever Reverses Ben & Jerry’s Israel Boycott; Arizona Treasurer Hesitant to Reinvest

By Corinne Murdock |

On Wednesday, Unilever sold its Ben & Jerry’s business in Israel to its current licensee, American Quality Products (AQP), effectively reversing the ice cream brand’s boycott of Israeli-occupied territory they believed belonged to Palestinians, or “Occupied Palestinian Territory” (OPT). The move came about six months before Ben & Jerry’s license agreement there was set to expire. Ben & Jerry pledged to continue selling in Israel through a different arrangement after that — just not within OPT.

The British consumer goods conglomerate asserted in a press release that they weren’t supportive of Ben & Jerry’s boycott, which they implied was antisemitic. The company explained that it was slow to take action on the boycott, which began last July, because they wanted to conduct an extensive review with parties involved, including the Israeli government. 

“Unilever rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance. Antisemitism has no place in any society. We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position,” wrote Unilever. 

The conglomerate expressed hope that the Israeli and Palestinian governments could reach a peaceful resolution in their conflict. 

Ben & Jerry’s insisted that their boycott wasn’t rooted in antisemitism. 

Ben & Jerry’s boycotted the Israel-occupied area last July in response to controversy over Israeli forces along the West Bank, which the company asserted was an illegal incursion. In response, State Treasurer Kimberly Yee divested Unilever of state funds in September. The state originally had around $143 million invested in the conglomerate.

At the time, Yee pointed to Arizona law prohibiting state funds from going to entities that boycott Israel. 

“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.”

On Thursday, Yee issued a formal statement commending Unilever for reversing Ben & Jerry’s boycott. However, the treasurer didn’t pledge to restore the divested funds immediately. Yee shared that her office would review Unilever before deciding to reinvest. 

“[I] continue to be concerned about the woke decisions of Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors,” remarked Yee in closing. 

In a statement, Ben & Jerry’s expressed that they didn’t support Unilever’s decision. 

“We continue to believe it is inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” stated the company. 

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

Unilever Reverses Ben & Jerry’s Israel Boycott; Arizona Treasurer Hesitant to Reinvest

Ben & Jerry’s Decision Runs Afoul With Arizona’s Anti-Boycott Policy

By Terri Jo Neff |

The announcement last week by officials of Ben & Jerry’s that the ice cream company would stop selling its products in the Israeli-controlled West Bank at the end of 2022 prompted Gov. Doug Ducey to call the move “discrimination.”

Ducey added that “Arizona stands with Israel” and said the state “will not do business with a company that boycotts Israel.” He also reminded Arizonans that as governor has twice signed legislation in an attempt to make sure the State does not contract with entities engaging in boycotts of Israel. It is unclear how much money was spent annually by state agencies on Ben & Jerry’s products before and after the legislation.

The decision by Unilever-owned Ben & Jerry’s came after pro-Palestinian activists worked to garner support within the United States for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) efforts involving companies which do business in Israeli or in West Bank communities which Palestinians claim a right to.

The Anti-Defamation League calls BDS efforts anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and bigoted.

Ben & Jerry’s has not announced any plans to step selling its products in any other areas of Israel, although a factory in southern Israel is reportedly slated for closure despite not being near occupied or disputed territory.

Both Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid criticized the decision by Ben & Jerry’s. And in New York, the board of directors of a grocery chain recently voted to cut off all promotional activities involving Ben & Jerry’s products.

Avi Kaner, co-owner of Morton Williams Supermarkets, said the objective of “extremists” within Ben & Jerry’s “is very, very selective boycotts specifically against the Jewish people,” particularly those who live in Jewish communities within disputed territories.

“Who is Ben & Jerry’s to say that little Jewish girls cannot have ice cream in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem?” Kaner said.

Earlier this year several students at Arizona State University (ASU) sought to pass a resolution in support of BDS efforts. The president of the ASU Undergraduate Student Government declined to put the matter on a meeting agenda.