Texas gets involved in Israel's fight with Ben & Jerry's over West Bank boycott

A household enjoys the customer sights at Ben & Jerrys manufacturing facility in Waterbury, Vermont on June 24, 2021.

Christiana Botic | Boston Globe | Getty Images

The fight between Israel and Palestinians is spilling over into 30 U.S. states with legal guidelines on their books stopping pension funds from investing in corporations that refuse to do enterprise with the Jewish state.

The freshest instance includes the socially acutely aware ice cream model Ben & Jerry’s, the West Bank and Texas.

Earlier this week, the Ben & Jerry’s board mentioned it could not enable gross sales in areas it believes Israel mustn’t management. The firm launched an announcement saying “we believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” 

The firm, now owned by international client big Unilever, has bought its model in Israel for many years by means of an area Israeli distributor. Unilever mentioned it could search a brand new deal to promote ice cream in Israel, however not in territory claimed by Palestinians for a state of their very own.

In Israel, companies are prevented from treating clients and subsidiaries in another way in what Israel calls “disputed territory” versus these in what a lot of the world acknowledges as Israeli territory. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed this week to “act aggressively” against the ice cream company, which was based in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who’re Jewish and progressive-minded.

The American flag and the Texas State flag fly over the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

Now, Texas is getting involved. 

A spokesman for Republican Gov. Greg Abbott instructed CNBC on Tuesday night time: “Ben and Jerry’s decision to boycott parts of Israel is disgraceful and an insult to America’s closest ally in the Middle East.” The assertion went on to say: “Unilever, Ben and Jerry’s parent company, must reverse this ill-conceived decision.”

Abbott signed a invoice into legislation  4 years in the past that may power Texas pension funds to divest from any firm boycotting Israel.

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar, who controls billions of {dollars} in property for Texas’ public pension funds has already instructed his workplace to take motion. In an announcement to CNBC he mentioned, “I’ve directed my staff to determine whether any specific action has been taken by Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever would trigger a listing under Chapter 808 of the Texas Government Code,” the legislation handed in 2017.

It can also be potential gross sales in states with anti-boycott legal guidelines could possibly be impacted. If Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever bids for a contract at a public establishment, they could possibly be disqualified if the boycott turns into a actuality.

Florida state CFO Jimmy Patronis, who controls public pension funds, instructed CNBC his workplace began discussing the problem Tuesday morning. “I find what’s taking place very concerning,” he mentioned in a textual content. But he wasn’t ready to say what motion may be taken.

Airbnb was the final firm to seek out itself tangled in an analogous challenge. In 2018, the rental website mentioned it was banning listings of Israeli property in the West Bank, territory Palestinians declare must be a part of their state. 

An Airbnb itemizing in Israel


But the corporate reversed itself a number of months later and now seems to be at listings on a “case-by-case approach” in line with an announcement on its web site.

Ben & Jerry’s board, which has a novel settlement with father or mother firm Unilever permitting for an outsized function in selections relating to social points, initiated the transfer this week to tug out of Israel.

After Ben & Jerry’s assertion, Unilever launched one in every of its personal Monday saying “we remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades.” In addition, the corporate’s CEO spoke this week with Bennett. After the dialog, Israel’s new prime minister mentioned: “This is an action that has severe consequences, including legal, and it (Israel) will take strong action against any boycott directed against its citizens.”

Ben & Jerry’s Chair Anuradha Mittal has not responded to CNBC relating to the affect of the choice and the chance that state pension funds might divest from Unilever. In a cellphone interview Thursday, Ben & Jerry’s spokesman Sean Greenwood mentioned: “The company has nothing to add beyond the original statement” issued Monday.

Speaking to NBC News earlier this week, Mittal went after Unilever for issuing its personal assertion on the problem calling it “deceit.” She added: “I can’t stop thinking that this is what happens when you have a board with all women and people of color who have been pushing to do the right thing.”

Unilever has not returned CNBC calls or emails searching for response to the opportunity of divestment by state pension funds.

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