Florida May Drop Ben & Jerry’s Parent Over Israel Boycott

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (AP) -
In this Tuesday, July 20, 2021 file photo, an Israeli shops at the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream factory in the Be’er Tuvia Industrial area, southern Israel. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)

Florida won’t put any state money into the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s unless it reverses a decision to stop selling ice cream in contested parts of Israel, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday.

The Republican governor said the State Board of Administration added London-based Unilever to its list of “scrutinized companies” that boycott Israel. This means that if Ben & Jerry’s position on Israel is not reversed in 90 days, Florida will not invest in or contract with Unilever or its subsidiaries.

“As a matter of law and principle, the state of Florida will not tolerate discrimination against the state of Israel or the Israeli people,” the Republican governor said in a news release. “I will not stand idly by as woke corporate ideologues seek to boycott and divest from our ally, Israel.”

The decision, similar to those in other states, comes after Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s announced last month that it will stop selling its products in the West Bank.

Unilever’s 400 brands include a wide variety of familiar consumer goods such as Dove personal care products, Lipton tea, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Sunlight soap and, of course, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday in Florida’s action. But its CEO, Alan Jope, said last week that Unilever is “fully committed” to doing business in Israel despite the decision to stop some sales there by Ben & Jerry’s.

Florida officials say the company told them in a call Wednesday that there are no plans to change Ben & Jerry’s stance on Israel. It wasn’t immediately clear what kinds investments or contracts Florida currently has with Unilever or its subsidiaries.

“We’ll continue working with the SBA to ensure Florida law is upheld for those who target our friends in Israel,” said Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer.

Israel’s ambassador to the United States and United Nations, Gilad Erdan, recently sent a letter to the governors of 35 U.S. states urging them to punish Unilever under anti-boycott laws such as that in Florida.