Ben & Jerry's Israel boycott: Missouri leads 12 states urging parent company Unilever to reverse decision

Ben & Jerry’s founders speak out on Israel boycott, say they’re ‘men of principle’

American-Israeli professor of international law Eugene Kontorovich explains the legal repercussions Ben & Jerry’s could face after boycotting sales in Israel.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is leading 12 states in urging Ben & Jerry's parent company, Unilever, to reverse the ice cream maker's decision to boycott Israel.

The Vermont-based dessert company announced in July that it would no longer sell its products in disputed territories including the West Bank, which the company called "Occupied Palestinian Territory." The decision came amid an escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza, and Ben & Jerry's said in a statement that selling products in those areas would be "inconsistent with" Ben & Jerry's "values."

"Unilever has embarked on an unfortunate and financially misguided path of testing our States' resolve by refusing to stop Ben & Jerry's from boycotting selected regions within the state of Israel," Schmitt wrote in a Monday letter to Unilever CEO Alan Jope. "Instead, Unilever has attempted to sidestep responsibility for this action by claiming that a comparatively small subsidiary of your giant global conglomerate is actually calling the shots."

NEW JERSEY SET TO SHED $182M UNILEVER ASSETS OVER BEN & JERRY'S BOYCOTT

A man walks past a closed Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop in the Israeli city of Yavne, about 30 kilometers south of Tel Aviv, on July 23, 2021. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

Schmitt highlighted in his letter that 33 states have laws, resolutions or executive orders that "prohibit the use of public pension funds or the awarding of government contracts to companies that boycott Israel." New York, New Jersey, Texas, Arizona and Florida have already "begun applying their anti-Israel boycott statutes to begin divestment from Unilever." The attorney general concludes the letter by urging Unilever to "reconsider" its decision with Ben & Jerry's "to boycott Israel."

Eleven other attorneys general representing Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia signed the letter.

BEN & JERRY'S SLAMMED BY ISRAELI PM, NETANYAHU AFTER ANNOUNCING BOYCOTT OF 'OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY'

Neither Unilever nor Ben & Jerry's immediately responded to inquiries from Fox News. 

The menu hangs on the wall at a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream store on Sept. 23, 2021, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Unilever told Fox News in a July statement that it "remain[s] fully committed to our presence in Israel" and pointed to its 2000 acquisition agreement with Ben & Jerry's that "recognised the right of the brand and its independent Board to take decisions about its social mission."

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Axios pushed Ben & Jerry's co-founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who are both Jewish, on the issue in October. The co-founders were asked about why they don't pull sales from Texas and Georgia, both of which have tightened laws on those issues, despite being "big proponents" of abortion and voting rights.

"I don’t know," Cohen said after appearing to give the question some thought. "I mean it’s an interesting question. I don’t know what that would accomplish." 

FOX Business' Ronn Blitzer and Bradford Betz contributed to this report.

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