Texas plans to divest Unilever over Ben & Jerry boycott

Texas could withdraw its investments from the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s Unilever after the ice cream company decided to boycott Judea and Samaria, Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar said Thursday.
Hegar said he had asked his staff to determine whether Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever had taken any action that would trigger his state’s anti-boycott law.
The Texas pension fund is worth more than $ 100 million, according to Bloomberg, and Unilever is included in its portfolio.
Chapter 808 of the Texas Government Code prohibits the government from investing its pension funds in a party that boycots Israel. It defines “boycott of Israel” as “refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or taking any other action that seeks to penalize, inflict economic harm or limit trade relations specifically with Israel or with any person or an entity doing business in Israel or a territory controlled by Israel.

Ben & Jerry’s has operated in Israel for almost 35 years, with a factory in Be’er Tuviya. On Tuesday, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would no longer sell its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” and terminate its contract with its Israeli licensee, who refused to participate in the boycott, when it expires in 2022. The statement said they would seek a new arrangement and continue to sell its products in Israel.

However, the independent board of directors of the Vermont-based company issued a statement that the previous statement was from Unilever, owner of Ben & Jerry’s, and does not reflect its position, which is to end sales in Israel. .

“The Texans have made it clear that they are on the side of Israel and its people,” Hegar said. “We are against all those who wish to undermine the economy of Israel and its people … My office has a long history of supporting Israel through our holdings of bonds and the monitor’s list of companies examined with links to it. Iran, as well as those with links to foreign terrorist organizations. . “

Hegar encouraged Texans to eat Blue Bell ice cream, which “was founded in Brenham, Texas and tastes much better than overpriced, stuck-up stuff made by a foreign company started in Vermont.”

Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced that Israel would contact U.S. states with anti-boycott laws to encourage them to take action.

Gilad Erdan, Ambassador to the United States and to the UN, sent a letter to the governors of 35 states with such laws. Most anti-boycott laws would require states to stop contracting with Ben & Jerry’s, and possibly Unilever, or part with them.

On a conference call with investors, Unilever CEO Alan Jope said: “This is obviously a complex and sensitive issue that arouses very strong feelings. If there is one message I want to underline in this appeal, it is that Unilever remains fully engaged in our activities in Israel.

However, Jope did not say he would force Ben & Jerry’s to reverse his decision and pointed to the ice cream company’s long history of social and political leadership.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett commented on the boycott of Ben & Jerry’s to a delegation of ambassadors to the United States and the United Nations visiting Israel on Thursday.

“Anyone who thinks of turning the boycott of the State of Israel into a marketing or branding issue will find it was the worst business decision he has ever made,” Bennett warned.

“Consumers, certainly in Israel, but also in the United States and other countries, don’t think it’s cool to side with Hamas,” the prime minister added. “We are using all the means at our disposal to act against this, including legal ones. “

Bennett said those who boycott Israel are punishing it for “the sin … of fighting terrorism” and will pay the price.

Erdan said that “at this time, when companies give in to BDS pressure and incorporate anti-Israel political considerations into their decisions, the visit of UN ambassadors to Israel is particularly important.”

Erdan, in cooperation with the American Zionist Movement and the March of the Living, brought a delegation of 10 ambassadors to Israel a week ago to visit sites across the country and receive briefings on border security northern Israel and near Gaza, where they also met residents of communities affected by Hamas rocket fire.

Among the countries whose representatives were traveling were Australia, Argentina, Ukraine, Kenya, Guatemala, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Dominican Republic, Tonga and Bhutan, with whom Israel established links last year.

Erdan said that after the trip, the ambassadors said they would influence their countries to stand by Israel’s side and against the hypocrisy and discrimination against Israel, which is rampant at the UN.

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