Sunday, April 21, 2024

Ariz. Treasurer Divests Public Funds from Ben & Jerry’s Over Israel Boycott

'I gave Unilever PLC, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, an ultimatum...'

(Cole Lauterbach, The Center Square) Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee is pulling the state’s public funds from a company over its decision to boycott Israel after multiple warnings.

Yee announced Tuesday she had taken steps to eventually divest all public money from Unilever, the British corporation that owns ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s. The move, she said, is in accordance with an Arizona law that forbids state funds from being invested in companies that boycott Israel.

“I gave Unilever PLC, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, an ultimatum: 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,” Yee said in a statement. “It does not matter how much investment Unilever PLC has in Israel, with Ben & Jerry’s decision to no longer sell its product in the West Bank, the companies are in violation of the law in Arizona.”

Yee said the state would not do business with companies that attempt to undermine Israel’s economy and “blatantly” disregard Arizona’s law.

The Vermont ice cream brand announced July 19 it no longer would sell its products in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. It referred to the areas as “Occupied Palestinian Territory” in its announcement.

“We reject and repudiate all forms of hate and racism,” Ben & Jerry’s said in a statement. “Our decision to exit the OPT was based on our belief that it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s to be present within an internationally recognized illegal occupation. Speaking and acting on our values is neither anti-Israel nor antisemitic.”

The company said it would continue to sell ice cream in Israel for the time being.

Israel President Isaac Herzog called the decision “a new form of terrorism, economic terrorism,” with other officials warning Unilever would face consequences for allowing the divestment.

Arizona had invested $143 million into the British conglomerate. That was reduced to $50 million, and will be zeroed out as of Sept. 21 once the state’s last investment matures.

The treasurer’s office has invested more than $30 million in Israel bonds since 2013…Original Source

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