Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) called on the State Board of Administration (SBA) last week to place Ben & Jerry’s, along with its parent company Unilever, on the state’s Scrutinized Companies List.
DeSantis made his demand in a letter to the board after Ben & Jerry’s, a popular ice cream manufacturer that often mixes business and political activism, announced that it would no longer sell ice cream in the Judea and Samaria, also known as Israel’s West Bank. The ice cream company said that the sale of product in Judea and Samaria is “inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Florida state law forbids the state from investing in any company that joins the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel. Supporting boycotts against Israel is outlawed in dozens of U.S. states as the BDS movement is viewed as antisemitic by its critics.
“As you know, Florida has long had a strong relationship with the State of Israel. 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 on July 22.
“It has come to my attention that Ben & Jerry’s has announced plans to remove its products and prohibit the sale of its ice cream in Judea and Samaria,” he continued. “These actions taken by Ben & Jerry’s fall squarely within the prohibited activities defined by Section 215.4725(1)(a), Florida Statutes. Ben & Jerry’s is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, a publicly traded company in which Florida holds multiple investments.”
“Therefore, I am requesting the State Board of Administration (SBA) immediately place Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on the Continued Examination Companies that Boycott Israel List, and initiate the process to place Ben & Jerry’s, and by extension Unilever, on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List,” he said.
“Should the State Board of Administration affirmatively place Unilever and its corporate entities on the Scrutinized Companies List and these companies do not cease the boycott of Israel as required by Florida law, the Board must refrain from acquiring any and all Unilever assets consistent with the law,” DeSantis wrote. “These actions affirm the State of Florida’s relationship with the State of Israel and our commitment to a swift response to those who discriminate against the Israeli people.”
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations and the United States, urged U.S. states that forbid BDS campaigns against Israel to punish Ben & Jerry’s for its action against Israel. Erdan said that Ben & Jerry’s boycott of regions of Israel is antisemitic and contributes to the “dehumanization of the Jewish people.”
Erdan wrote in a letter in part:
Earlier today, July 19th, Ben & Jerry’s announced their intention to boycott hundreds of thousands of citizens living in Judea and Samaria. We view this decision very severely as it is the de-facto adoption of anti-Semitic practices and advancement of the de-legitimization of the Jewish state and the dehumanization of the Jewish people.
In addition to the great moral difficulties that derive from such a boycott, Ben & Jerry’s announced policy seems to also trigger potential legal ramifications, based on laws legislated by over 35 States, including your state, meant to counter these types of hate driven boycotts.