KEY POINTS

  • Texas and Florida called the Ben & Jerry’s decision to boycott Israel disgraceful
  • Both states want the company to be on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel list
  • If put on the list, the company will be unable to renew or enter into contracts with the state

The controversy over ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling its products in the territory that it believes should not be controlled by Israel has triggered the possibility of punitive action in Texas and Florida.

Earlier this week, the Ben & Jerry’s board said in a statement, “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” The company owned by Unilever has sold its ice cream products in Israel for decades through a local distributor.

The company’s decision has drawn the wrath of the new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who vowed to “act aggressively” against Ben & Jerry’s, reported Associated Press. 

Now, Texas and Florida, which are among the 32 states that passed laws forbidding companies from participating in boycotts against Israel, are threatening the ice cream company and Unilever with divestment.   

“Ben and Jerry’s decision to boycott parts of Israel is disgraceful and an insult to America’s closest ally in the Middle East,” said a spokesperson for GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to CNBC. “Unilever, Ben and Jerry’s parent company, must reverse this ill-conceived decision.”

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar, who controls assets for Texas’ public pension funds, has already told his office to take action, reported CNBC. “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,” he told CNBC. 

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wrote to the State Board of Administration (SBA): “I am requesting the State Board of Administration (SBA) immediately place Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on the Continued Examination Companies that Boycott Israel List.” He also wrote in the missive that if the SBA places the company in the list and they do not cease their boycott then the state will “refrain from acquiring any and all Unilever assets consistent with the law.”

Florida state CFO Jimmy Patronis, who controls public pension funds, wrote to Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy that the company’s decision “may result in your business being placed on Florida’s Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List pursuant to Florida Statutes.” The letter also said that the state would be “prohibited from investing” in Ben & Jerry’s or its parent company, Unilever.

If added to the anti-boycott list, the company will not be able to enter or renew contracts with the state or any municipalities in Florida. It may also impact the sales in states with anti-boycott laws.

On Monday, Unilever issued a statement saying, “We remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades.” Unilever also made it clear that it has a unique acquisition agreement with Ben & Jerry’s.  “We have always recognised the right of the brand and its independent Board to take decisions about its social mission,” explained the statement. 

Ben & Jerry's decision to stop selling its ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories drew the ire of Israeli political leaders Unilever is now facing backlash over Ben & Jerry's move in Israel. Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Kevin Dietsch