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.
Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee wants to ensure all State vendors understand their obligations in light of economic sanctions put on the Russian Federation by the U.S. and E.U. following Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Yee issued a Notice of Compliance about her expectation that State contractors, vendors, and other third-parties pay attention to the situation involving Russia and have all “necessary consents, approvals, and authorizations of all governmental authorities in connection with any transaction” dealing with the State.
“As you are aware, the State of Arizona and the Arizona State Treasurer’s Office (ASTO) are subject to U.S. laws, regulations, and orders applicable to its business activities and financial transactions, including those related to the international trade controls and economic sanctions,” Yee wrote. “As a vendor of the State of Arizona, you have separate and independent obligations under these same laws.”
Yee added that the State of Arizona has no investments in Russia, and while economic sanctions are subject to change, she expects all contractors and third parties “acting as intermediaries for the State of Arizona” to be knowledgeable about and remain in compliance with export and import laws, regulations, sanctions, embargoes, and policies.
That includes, but is not limited to, securing all clearances, export and import licenses, or exemptions therefrom, and making all required filings with appropriate governmental bodies, she noted.
“If you or your agents are unable to comply with the above foreign transaction requirements – including compliance with the United States trade sanctions related to Russia– in regard to your independent relationship with State of Arizona, you are required to notify the Arizona State Treasurer’s Office in writing immediately,” Yee wrote.
Yee also used the notice to suggest State contractors and vendors not be associated with financing any oil or other energy trades with Russia.
“Instead, we respectfully request you consider financing and investing in energy production in the United States, so we can be energy independent,” she wrote. “This is not only beneficial from a foreign policy perspective, but it is also a safer domestic investment.”
Yee’s suggestion, she noted, goes against the wishes of the Biden Administration but she pointed out there is no law against financing U.S. energy production.
“Doing so is a sound investment that does not carry the risk of foreign investment in that sector,” Yee wrote.
On Monday, Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee, and Arizona Board of Regents member, Karrin Taylor Robson, announced their plans to run in the governor’s race.
The announcements have been expected for some time.
Yee has spent most of her adult life working in the government sector.
Yee served as executive fellow for the Office of the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, program and policy analyst for Wilson on the California State Board of Education. She served as deputy cabinet secretary for the Office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, before becoming director of communications and government affairs for the Arizona State Treasurer’s Office.
Yee was appointed by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to the Arizona House of Representatives to replace fellow Republican Doug Quelland after he was ousted for violating Clean Election Limits. She was later elected to the State Senate. She was elected to the Treasurer’s Office in 2018.
Taylor Robson was appointed to the Arizona Board of Regents in June of 2017 by Governor Doug Ducey.
Taylor Robson is the founder and president of a development company, Arizona Strategies. Prior to forming Arizona Strategies, Taylor Robson served as executive vice president of DMB Associates, Inc., a Scottsdale-based master-planned community developer. Prior to DMB, she was a principal with the law firm of Biskind, Hunt & Taylor, P.L.C., where she practiced in the areas of land use, development and zoning law representing large land owners on complex land use cases.