Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever are facing divestment of its securities by the government of Texas, after the state comptroller placed it on a list of companies that boycott Israel due to the ice cream brand’s discontinuing its sales in what it deems “occupied Palestinian territories.”
The ice cream company announced in July that when its agreement with its Israeli licensee expires at the end of next year, it will no longer sell products in Yehudah, Shomron and eastern Yerushalayim. Unilever at the time said it remains “fully committed to our presence in Israel,” but that when it had acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, “as part of the acquisition agreement, we have always recognised the right of the brand and its independent Board to take decisions about its social mission.”
Thirty-five states, including Texas, have laws or regulations barring the state from doing business with those who boycott Israel. Arizona has already divested from Unilever. And on Thursday, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced that it had placed both Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on the Texas list of companies that boycott Israel.
“As with any of our listing decisions, my office, in cooperation with our research providers, carefully reviewed statements and activities by both Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever before concluding that they are suitable candidates for the Texas list,” Hegar said. “Texas law is clear on this issue, and my office has long supported Israel through our Israel bond holdings as well as our lists of scrutinized companies with ties to Iran and those with ties to foreign terrorist organizations.”
Texas law defines “boycott Israel” as “refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or otherwise taking any action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or in an Israeli-controlled territory …” Under the law, once the comptroller places a company on the list, the company has 90 days to cease its boycott of Israel, or the state “shall sell, redeem, divest, or withdraw all publicly traded securities of the company.”