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Gov. DeSantis shows support for Israel in push against Ben & Jerry's West Bank ban

The governor highlighted Florida's "strong relationship with the State of Israel" in an effort to penalize the ice cream company for its decision.
Credit: AP
Truck are parked at the Ben & Jerry's ice-cream factory in the Be'er Tuvia Industrial area, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the head of Unilever on Tuesday that Israel will "act aggressively" against Ben & Jerry's over the subsidiary's decision to stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

FLORIDA, USA — Ben & Jerry's announced earlier this week that it would stop selling its ice cream in the disputed West Bank region. 

In response, Florida's governor has vocalized his support for Israel along with a desire to penalize the ice cream company over its decision.

Gov. Ron DeSantis highlighted the state's "strong relationship with the State of Israel" in a push to get Ben & Jerry's name added to a list of companies that boycott Israel, thus making it ineligible for investments from the state’s pension fund. 

So, how did we get to this point?

In a statement, Ben & Jerry's said it would end the sale of its products in what it calls "Occupied Palestinian Territory." The socially conscious ice cream company called the sale of ice cream in the region inconsistent with its values, adding however that it "will stay in Israel through a different arrangement."

The next day, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the head of Unilever, Ben & Jerry's parent company, that Israel plans to “act aggressively” against the ice cream company over its decision.

DeSantis echoed this sentiment in a letter released Thursday. 

"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," Gov. DeSantis said in the letter to Ash Williams, Executive Director of Florida's State Board of Administration (SBA).

The governor goes on to request that Ben & Jerry's and Unilever be added to a temporary list in order to initiate the process of placing the company on the "Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List."

This move would mean that Florida's pension funds could no longer be used to invest in Ben & Jerry's or its parent company. 

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis, who is a trustee of the SBA, also stood in support of Israel. In a letter directly to Ben & Jerry's CEO Matthew McCarthy, he adds that the ice cream company's "brazen refusal to do business with Israel" would eventually make them ineligible to enter or renew contracts with the state or any of its counties.

Vacation rental company Airbnb landed itself in a similar situation back in 2018 when it said it was banning listings of Israeli properties in the West Bank. This move earned Airbnb a spot on the "Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List," but not for long. 

A few months later, the company changed its policy, saying it would look at listings in Israel on a case-by-case basis. The statement makes it clear that "Airbnb is not boycotting Israel."

Ben & Jerry's announcement was one of the highest-profile company rebukes of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Most of the international community considers these settlements illegal under international law and an impediment to peace with the Palestinians. 

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