The outrage over Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories continues, and the states of Florida and Texas are preparing to take action. Both states have laws on the books against Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), the global movement that calls to hold Israel accountable for its occupation and war crimes against Palestinians through boycotts.
Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the US, wrote a letter to the governors of over 30 states with anti-BDS laws to take action against Ben & Jerry’s. And some governors are quick to jump to the opportunity to punish an American company on behalf of a foreign power.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) wrote a letter to his state’s Board Administration to immediately place Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever on the Continued Examination Companies that Boycott Israel List. The list initiates the process to place the companies on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.
The Scrutinized Companies list will prevent the board from purchasing stock in Unilever and its corporate entities for things like pension funds. The state of Florida would also be unable to enter contracts with the companies unless Ben & Jerry’s reverses its decision.
“As a matter of law and principle, the State of Florida does not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the Israeli people, including boycotts and divestments targeting Israel,” DeSantis wrote.
In 2019, DeSantis put Airbnb on the Scrutinized Companies list when it stopped listing properties in West Bank settlements. Airbnb reversed the move over the outcry, and they were removed from the list.
Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar said Thursday that his state might withdraw investments from Unilever. He directed his staff to determine if Ben & Jerry’s move would trigger Texas’ anti-BDS laws. According to Bloomberg, Texas’ pension fund has Unilever in its portfolio.
The reaction to Ben & Jerry’s decision, which won’t take effect until the end of 2022, shows that Israel is threatened by the BDS movement. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett went as far as calling boycotts against Israel a “new kind of terrorism.” While there are plenty of pro-Israel lawmakers in the US ready to enforce these clearly unconstitutional anti-BDS laws, the view of Israel amongst ordinary Americans is changing. A recent poll found that 25 percent of Jewish American voters consider Israel to be an apartheid state.