StandWithUs Commends State Treasurers for Demanding Unilever Override Ben & Jerry’s Boycott of Israel

Photo: Roz Rothstein, CEO StandWithUs and Mark Swenson, Arizona state Deputy Treasurer.

On December 9, treasurers from U.S. states announced that they sent a letter to Unilever CEO Alan Jope demanding clarification of the discrepancy between the representations that Unilever made to states about its lack of authority to override Ben & Jerry’s announced boycott of Israel and evidence drawn from their acquisition agreement that points to the contrary.

The letter was initiated by Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee (see her office’s Tweet here), who previously questioned Jope, about Unilever’s role in the boycott. His response — that Ben & Jerry’s would remain in Israel and the acquisition agreement prevented Unilever from overriding the decision of Ben & Jerry’s independent board — was challenged in a joint letter by the Israeli-American Coalition for Action (IAC for Action) and StandWithUs (SWU) as well as by key legal experts. In fact, the Ben & Jerry’s boycott would prohibit it from doing business in any part of Israel and Unilever has multiple avenues to exercise authority and an obligation to reverse the boycott. Yee cited the IAC for Action-SWU letter to Jope in hers, which the organizations sent to Jope on October 15, 2021.

Roz Rothstein, StandWithUs CEO, welcomed the inquiry by the state financial officers: “Thirty-three states have anti-boycott legislation to protect their economies from boycotting a valued trading partner and their citizens from engaging in de facto discrimination. Consequently, we are witnessing states divesting from Unilever and now investigating whether Unilever’s failure to override Ben & Jerry’s boycott directly implicates the company as an active participant in the boycott. A boycott is not only a display of bigotry against the Jewish State, it is also proving to be bad for business.”

On July 19, 2021, Ben & Jerry’s, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilever, announced that it would terminate its sales to Israeli-controlled territories, including eastern Jerusalem and Judaism’s holiest sites. By ordering its licensee to boycott sales to Israelis in certain parts of Israel, Ben & Jerry’s knowingly demanded its licensee to violate Israeli anti-discrimination law, which prohibits its companies from refusing to sell to any Israelis, of any religion, based on their area of residence. Therefore, the boycott of any part of Israel becomes a boycott of all of Israel.

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