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Arizona Treasurer Announces Divestment from Ben & Jerry’s

In a September 2 letter to Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Yee wrote that while she appreciated Unilever’s opposition to boycotts of Israel, the fact is that Ben & Jerry’s is in violation of Arizona’s anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) law.
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September 9, 2021
(Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Ben & Jerry’s)

Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced in a September 7 press release that the state government will be divesting from Ben & Jerry’s over the ice cream company’s recent Israel decision.

In a September 2 letter to Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Yee wrote that while she appreciated Unilever’s opposition to boycotts of Israel, the fact is that Ben & Jerry’s is in violation of Arizona’s anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) law. Arizona’s law defines “boycotts” as “refusal to deal, terminating business activities, or performing other actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with entities doing business in Israel or in territories controlled by Israel” based on discriminatory purposes rather than a “valid business reason.” On July 19, Ben & Jerry’s announced that they would cease operating in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” as a means of protesting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

“Therefore, our office has no choice but to divest from Unilever PLC on the list of firms that are participating in a boycott of the State of Israel until such time as Ben & Jerry’s reverses its boycott decision or Unilever divests itself,” Yee wrote. “Our investments in Unilever have been reduced from $143 million as of June 30, 2021 to $50 million today and will be zero by September 21, 2021 after our last investment in Unilever matures.”

Yee said in a statement in the press release, “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. Arizona will not do business with companies that are attempting to undermine Israel’s economy and blatantly disregarding Arizona’s law.”

She hailed Israel as “a major trading partner of Arizona.” “I stand with Israel and will not allow taxpayer dollars to go towards anti-Semitic, discriminatory efforts against Israel.”

Jewish and pro-Israel Twitter users applauded Yee.

“Thank you, Arizona!” StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein tweeted.

“Bravo #Arizona!” Arsen Ostrovsky, human rights lawyer and CEO of International Legal Forum, tweeted. “Thank you for standing with #Israel, thank you for your principled response in the face of @benandjerrys antisemitic boycott of Israel.”

Sussex Friends of Israel also tweeted, “BDS’ing the BDS. Is this that irony thing I’ve been told so much about?”

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