12 attorney generals call on Ben & Jerry’s to resume business in illegal settlements

A coalition of attorney generals is urging Ben & Jerry’s to sell its ice cream in the illegally-occupied West Bank once again.

The group sent a letter to Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever calling for action. Signatories include the chief legal officers of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

“We, the attorneys general of our respective states, write today to express our grave concerns about Unilever’s decision to engage in a boycott of the State of Israel. Not only is Israel one of our nation’s closest and most reliable allies, but it is also the only democratic nation in the region and has long been a force for peace and stability,” reads the letter.

Despite this assertion, the company has never actually embraced an Israel boycott or the BDS movement. Ben & Jerry’s announced that it was pulling out of occupied West Bank territories in July, but made it clear that they would continue to do business in other parts of the country.

The boycott falsehood was echoed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in a statement announcing the letter. “Today I was proud to lead a 12 state coalition in calling on Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s to reverse their ill-advised boycott of the State of Israel. Israel is a strong ally of the United States and remains the only democratic nation in the region,” said Schmitt. “Further, if Unilever is so interested in virtue-signaling, why not announce a boycott of countries like China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or especially Iran, who has promised the complete destruction of Israel? Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s should reverse their boycott immediately.”

Florida, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, and Texas have all announced that they are divesting their holdings in Unilever over the Ben & Jerry’s decision. Earlier this month New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that the state might go a step further and add Unilever to blacklist that would block them from any further state investment.

While state governments look to punish Unilever financially, the pro-Israel group StandWithUs has launched a $500,000 ad campaign attacking the company. It includes billboards that say, “Don’t Let Antisemitism Melt Your Brand.”

Activists have been pressuring Ben & Jerry’s to pull its business out of Israel for years and in 2015 it became a target of the BDS movement.

“When we started this campaign we were targeting Ben & Jerry’s because their social mission talks about equality, human rights, protecting refugees, protecting the environment, Black Lives Matter, police brutality,” Vermonters for Justice in Palestine’s Wafic Faour told Mondoweiss in July. “We’re talking about Israel because it’s still an apartheid state and the Palestinians who are living over there as Israeli citizens, Israeli Arabs..they are living under different rules and they are facing discrimination on housing, on education, healthcare, police protection. Just name it.”

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