Arizona Cuts Investments in Ben & Jerry’s Parent Company Unilever After Israel Boycott Decision
Arizona will divest all state funds from Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever as a result of the ice cream maker’s decision to end sales in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced on Tuesday.
“Israel is and will continue to be a major trade partner of AZ. #IStandWithIsrael and I will not allow taxpayer dollars to go towards antisemitic, discriminatory efforts against Israel,” Yee tweeted.
State law prohibits Arizona from investing or entering in contracts with businesses or people that participate in boycotts of Israel. Arizona reduced its investment in Unilever from $143 million to $50 million on June 30, and will reduce that amount to zero by Sept. 21, 2021, after the last investment in Unilever matures. Yee sent an email to Richard Williams of Unilever Investor Relations on Sept. 2 notifying him of her decision.
Ben & Jerry’s announced on July 19 that it would stop selling its products in what it called Occupied Palestinian Territory by the end of 2022, because its business there was “inconsistent” with company values. It will continue to operate in other parts of Israel “through a different business arrangement,” the company added. Ben & Jerry founders Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield later wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times that they supported the boycott decision, which they described “not as anti-Israel, but as part of a long history of being pro-peace.”
Yee said she gave Unilever an ultimatum in August: “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.”
She explained, “It does not mater how much investment Unilever has in Israel, with Ben & Jerry’s decision to no longer sell its products 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.”