By Ron Kampeas
Arizona has become the eighth state to begin reviewing whether Ben & Jerry’s plans to withdraw from doing business in the West Bank merits sanctions under its law targeting the Israel boycott movement.
In emails obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the state’s treasurer last week asked Unilever, the ice cream manufacturer’s parent company, to comply with its 2016 law. It requires state entities, including pension funds, to divest from companies boycotting Israel or businesses in territories under Israel’s control, explicitly including the West Bank. The treasurer’s office gave Unilever 90 days to do so.
Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s have said they are not observing the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, or BDS, because they are only seeking to pull out of the West Bank, and plan to continue sales in Israel.
There are 34 states in total that require their governments to stop doing business with companies that boycott Israel — and 21 of those, like Arizona, include West Bank settlement boycotts in their definitions.
So far eight states are known to have triggered similar reviews that could result in divesting from Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever. In addition to Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Maryland and Rhode Island have launched formal proceedings.
“This is significant because Arizona is a major trade partner with Israel,” IAC For Action, the legislative and policymaking arm of the Israeli-American Council, which initiated the review with a formal request, said in a statement.