Florida may punish Ben & Jerry’s for company’s stance on Israel

(Magic City Weekend website)
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 7:29 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (News Service of Florida) - Florida could place Ben & Jerry’s on a “scrutinized” companies list that prohibits government contracts or investments, because the ice cream maker plans to stop doing business in territories it believes Israel shouldn’t control.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on Thursday advised Ben & Jerry’s and its London-based parent company Unilever that Florida would be prohibited from investing in either company. The companies would also become ineligible to enter into or renew contracts with the state or local governments.

“Florida law prohibits the state from investing in companies that discriminate against Israel by refusing to deal with or terminate business activities in a discriminatory matter,” Patronis wrote to Ben & Jerry’s CEO Matthew McCarthy. Patronis added that he intends to raise the issue at a Sept. 21 state Cabinet meeting.

Patronis, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody serve as trustees of a board that oversees the state pension fund. Similar action was briefly taken by the State Board of Administration in January 2019 against the home-sharing platform Airbnb when the company delisted about 200 West Bank properties. The state ban was lifted a few months later when Airbnb changed its policies.

Unilever this week announced plans to seek a new deal to sell the Ben & Jerry’s brand in Israel outside of territories that Palestinians claim as their own. “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Ben & Jerry’s announced. “We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”

A statement from Unilever called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “a very complex and sensitive situation” and said the company remains “fully committed to our presence in Israel.”

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