Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories has enraged Israeli officials as well as pro-Israel lawmakers in the United States. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) went as far as calling for his state of Oklahoma to outright ban Ben & Jerry’s products.
“#Benandjerrys has now decided they know more about Jerusalem than the Israelis. If Ben & Jerry’s wants to have a meltdown & boycott Israel, OK is ready to respond. Oklahoma has an anti-boycott of Israel law in place,” Lankford wrote on Twitter.
“We should immediately block the sale of all #Benandjerrys in the state and in any state-operated facility to align with our law,” he added.
Over 30 US states have laws on the books against the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls to hold Israel accountable for its occupation through global boycotts. The laws deny state funds to any person or entity that boycotts Israel. Oklahoma’s law exempts state contracts that are under $100,000, a minimum set by several states following First Amendment challenges to the clearly unconstitutional laws.
In comments to The Hill, Oklahoma state Rep. Mark McBride (R) explained that the state’s anti-BDS law could not be used to ban Ben & Jerry’s. “If Ben & Jerry’s was a vendor [of the state], then we would not do business, but they are not a vendor of Oklahoma,” he said.
On Tuesday, Israeli Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan sent a letter to the governors of the 35 US states urging them to enforce anti-BDS laws against Ben & Jerry’s. Twelve states BDS laws require state employees to disinvest their pensions from companies that boycott Israel. This could have an impact on Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, whose CEO received a call from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett over the matter.