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November 23, 2021 4:26 pm

A Dozen US Attorneys General to Unilever: Stop Ben & Jerry’s West Bank Boycott, Don’t ‘Deflect Accountability’

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Tubs of Ben & Jerry’s ice creams are seen as a laborer works at their factory in Be’er Tuvia, Israel, July 20, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun.

A dozen of America’s state attorneys general on Monday urged Unilever to face up to its “legal and moral responsibility” and reverse a controversial Israel boycott launched by its subsidiary, the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company.

In a letter to Unilever CEO Alan Jope, the chief legal officers of 12 states called Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling its products in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem “economic warfare.” The letter was spearhead by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and signed by his fellow Republican counterparts from Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Mississippi, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

Thirty-three US states currently have laws, resolutions, or executive orders prohibiting the investment of public pension funds or the signing of government contracts with companies that boycott Israel.

“Unilever has embarked on an unfortunate and financially misguided path of testing our States’ resolve by refusing to stop Ben & Jerry’s from boycotting selected regions within the State of Israel,” the attorneys general stated.

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They dismissed efforts by the British conglomerate to “deflect accountability” and pin the blame on Ben & Jerry’s, saying, “This assertion that the ‘tail’ wags the multi-billion dollar corporate ‘dog’ stretches credulity.”

“As a corporate parent with complete ownership and control, Unilever cannot escape legal and moral responsibility for Ben & Jerry’s ill-conceived boycott,” they added.

The letter pointed out that Unilever’s “corporate scruples do not extend to boycotts of nations such as China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela,” and even Iran, a US-designated state sponsor of terrorism and “a sworn enemy” of Israel.

“We count it a high honor to stand with Israel,” the attorneys general noted. “In keeping with the fiduciary duties required of Unilever under the laws of the United States and under the laws of the individual States represented by this letter, we respectfully urge you to reconsider the decision by you and your subsidiary to boycott Israel.”

Unilever’s CEO previously said that the British conglomerate remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel, despite Ben & Jerry’s boycott.

Several states have so far taken steps to begin divesting from Unilever over the affair, including New Jersey, New York, Texas, Arizona, and Florida.

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