Arizona Treasurer Calls Ben & Jerry’s “Anti-Semetic” as she Stops Investments to Parent Comapny

After Unilever declined to rein in one of their subsidiaries, Arizona treasurer Kimberly Yee issued and followed through on an ultimatum: get on board with our business practices or else it’s “Bye, Felicia.”

In a statement issued on September 7, Yee said that Arizona would divest all public funds from the parent company of renowned ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s due to their boycott of Israel, which violates Arizona law.

“I gave Unilever PLC, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, an ultimatum: reverse the action of Ben & Jerry’s or divest itself of Ben & Jerry’s to come into compliance with Arizona law or face the consequences. They chose the latter,” Yee said in the statement. “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.”

Unilever attempted to avoid responsibility by pointing out that they as a company whole are not boycotting Israel, just the single subsidiary. They further skirted their duty by acknowledging that while they are the parent company, they had acquired Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 and allowed them to maintain sovereignty including their own independent board. This sovereignty means that the Ben & Jerry’s subsidiary is allowed to make decisions that may conflict with broader Unilever policies and procedures.

For Treasurer Yee, it comes down to what the law says, and the law says Unilever is responsible regardless.

What brought on this debacle?

The frozen dairy maker had previously issued their statement on July 19, 2021, announcing that they will be withdrawing all their stores and sales from Occupied Palestinian Territory by 2022.

“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.

We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.

Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.”

Despite making their product available in other areas, Yee says it’s still anti-Semitic and in violation of state law. She won’t allow it.

Arizona has been a long time investor of Israel Bonds with $15 million in current holdings. A total of $30 million has been invested since 2013.

“Israel is and will continue to be a major trade partner of Arizona. As Arizona’s Chief Banking and Investment Officer, I stand with Israel, and I will not allow taxpayer dollars to go towards anti-Semitic, discriminatory efforts against Israel,” she said.

Yee is punishing the parent company by removing all funds from Unilever investments, having already reduced them down to $143 million on June 30, then again to $50 million as of today. Once account balances reach zero on September 21, 2021, they will be closed, and Arizona will no longer have any money invested.

 

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