By Benjamin Kerstein, The Algemeiner
Florida has taken action against Unilever, the parent of ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s, that could lead to an investment prohibition and an end to state contracts with the company over the latter’s decision not to sell products in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
Governor Ron DeSantis’ office announced Tuesday that the Executive Director & Chief Investment Officer of the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA), Ash Williams, had informed the governor that Unilever has been added to Florida’s List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel.
Under Florida law, if a listed company does not cease boycotting Israel within 90 days, it will face an investment prohibition and the state of Florida will no longer contract with the company or any of its subsidiaries.
Florida’s SBA was in contact with Unilever’s investor relations team before the decision to list the company, and was told Unilever would take no action against Ben & Jerry’s boycott.
Unilever will receive a written notice from the SBA regarding the company’s placement on the list, after which the 90-day deadline will take effect.
Governor DeSantis stated, “As a matter of law and principle, the State of Florida will not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the Israeli people.”
“By placing Ben & Jerry’s Fortune 500 parent company Unilever on our List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel, Florida is sending a message to corporate America that we will defend our strong relationship with the Jewish state. I will not stand idly by as woke corporate ideologues seek to boycott and divest from our ally, Israel,” he pledged.
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis commented, “Israel is a friend of Florida, it’s a thriving democracy with incredible people and culture, and Ben & Jerry’s decision to very publicly discriminate against Israel was a shortsighted attempt to virtue signal to folks on the radical left.”
“Thanks to Governor DeSantis for upholding Florida law and sending a strong message to companies everywhere that if you’ve got a problem with Israel, the state of Florida has a problem with you,” he said.
Unilever is facing similar sanctions in several other states over Ben & Jerry’s’ July announcement that it would not renew its agreement with its current Israeli partner, saying that it was “inconsistent” with its values to sell products in “the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
The New York state comptroller’s office warned Unilever last month that the sales boycott could threaten state pension fund investments in the company, while the Texas state comptroller has also begun determining whether Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever could be prohibited from doing business in the state.
Israel has sought to pursue legal means to fight the Ben & Jerry’s boycott, with its foreign ministry saying an inter-ministerial discussion “examined the use of legal tools in Israel and abroad and increasing the public pressure on company leaders in order to reverse the immoral decision to surrender to a boycott.”
Unilever CEO Alan Jope has said that Ben & Jerry’s’ decision was taken by its independent board, and that the UK-based conglomerate “remains fully committed” to its business in Israel.