In July 2021, popular ice cream brand Ben and Jerry’s announced their intentions to boycott sales in Israel. Now, Ben and Jerry’s and their parent company Unilever face push-back from investors and 13 state governments, including Texas, for their boycott.
The company announced the boycott in response to rising tensions between Israel and Gaza.
The July 19th announcement stated, “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).”
This boycott will stop sales and production of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in regions defined by the United Nations as OPT, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem region, according to Ben and Jerry’s statement and the Washington Times.
Pro-Palestine group, Palestine Legal, applauded the decision by Ben and Jerry’s to stop selling and manufacturing its ice cream in Israel. They even expressed the desire that Unilever, the parent company of Ben and Jerry’s, publicly support the boycott. But the boycott faces harsh criticism.
State governments have gotten involved in the push-back against the boycott. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt joins 12 other states, including Texas, in calling out the parent company of Ben and Jerry’s, according to Fox Business.
Schmitt said in a November 29 statement to the CEO of Unilever, “Unilever has embarked on an unfortunate and financially misguided path of testing our States’ resolve by refusing to stop Ben & Jerry’s from boycotting selected regions within the state of Israel. Instead, Unilever has attempted to sidestep responsibility for this action by claiming that a comparatively small subsidiary of your giant global conglomerate is actually calling the shots.”
Texas is one of 33 states which have laws that prohibit boycotts of Israel by companies who receive government contracts or public pension funds. Because of this law, Texas has “begun applying their anti-Israel boycott statutes to begin divestment from Unilever,” Schmitt told Fox Business.
Unilever may be required to update its regulatory filings to inform shareholders of the potential risks they face due to the boycott. A Bipartisan push has been made in the House of Representatives to urge the SEC to enforce these amendments in the interest of shareholders of Unilever and ensure their compliance with SEC rules, according to Fox Business.
Some Palestinians are even taking legal action against the boycott. Bassam Eid, a prominent Palestinian activist, filed a complaint in New York, suing the ice cream company for its boycott. In his complaint, Eid shared his unique Palestinian perspective that the boycott would be “counterproductive to peace and creates only more hatred, enmity, and polarization,” according to the NY Post.
Palestine Legal shared a press release with Dallas Express in which they stated, “Following Ben & Jerry’s announcement, Israeli government officials and their allies in the US threatened to invoke some 30 state laws that target boycott, divestment, and sanctions… The First Amendment protects your right to boycott, and laws that aim to punish boycotts have been blocked over concerns that they violate the Constitution.”
Ultimately, Ben and Jerry’s popular ice cream will be missing from Israel’s contested regions starting in 2022 unless Unilever takes a stand.
If Unilever chooses not to prevent Ben and Jerry’s boycott, they could face SEC backlash, along with continued legal repercussions from Texas and its 12 allied states as they continue to seek legal action against the ice cream brand for its Israel boycott.