Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and 11 other attorneys general sent a letter to Unilever and its subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc., demanding they reverse their decision to boycott Israel in refusing to sell Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“We must defend the laws of our states and oppose attempts by global corporations to engage in economic warfare against the State of Israel,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in a statement.
The attorneys general express their “grave concerns,” noting that “Not only is Israel one of our nation’s closest and most reliable allies, but it is also the only democratic nation in the region and has long been a force for peace and stability.”
They reference a statement Unilever made on July 18 defending Ben & Jerry’s, which it purchased in 2000, “As part of the acquisition agreement, we have always recognized the right of the brand and its independent Board to take decisions about its social mission.”
“This assertion that the ‘tail’ wags the multi-billion dollar corporate ‘dog’ stretches credulity,” the coalition said. They note that the Ben & Jerry’s website says it is a “wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilever.” Consequently, “Unilever cannot escape legal and moral responsibility for Ben & Jerry’s ill-conceived boycott.”
The attorneys general point out the hypocrisy of Unilever’s position. “Unilever’s 2020 Annual Report reveals that its corporate scruples do not extend to boycotts of nations such as China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, to name just a few.” They are particularly concerned with “Unilever’s corporate dealings with the country of Iran, designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States and a sworn enemy of the State of Israel.”
They hint at suing or prosecuting Unilever, saying “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.”
Ben & Jerry’s announced it would stop selling ice cream in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” in July. Owners Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who are both Jewish, still sell their ice cream in other parts of Israel.
In September, Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee withdrew all state funds invested in Unilever. Arizona is one of 34 states that require their governments to discontinue business with companies that boycott Israel, including 12 that mandate disinvesting retirement funds for state employees.
Also this month, four members of Congress sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking the regulatory agency to require Unilever to amend its filings to reflect risk factors created by the boycott, including the fact that five states have divested their money in Unilever stocks.
Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY-15), Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY-02), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-05), and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01) asserted that it was a “material omission” to leave out the potential “adverse consequences.” They point out, “Evidence in support of this concern is the decline of Unilever ADS common shares by approximately 13% since the announcement of the boycott, equivalent to a loss in shareholder value of $21 billion.”
Ben & Jerry’s has a long history of radical activism. Just within this past year, a Ben & Jerry’s tweet called for the resignation, impeachment and 25th Amendment removal of then-President Donald Trump. The founders labeled the January 6 incident at the U.S. Capitol “a riot to uphold white supremacy.” In April, after the shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Ben & Jerry’s tweeted that America’s police system “can’t be reformed” and “must be dismantled.”
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