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Illinois Threatens Divestment of Unilever if Ben & Jerry’s Israeli Boycott Not Reversed

The Illinois Investment Policy Board reportedly plans to warn Ben & Jerry’s to reverse their recent stance on Israel or else the board will divest from the ice cream company.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that the board’s Israeli Boycott Restrictions Committee will provide Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, with 90-day deadline to either “confirm or deny” Ben & Jerry’s stance. “In this case, it was a blatantly open statement made by the chairman of Ben & Jerry’s and we need to determine if Unilever deems it appropriate to walk the statement back.”

Should Unilever not reverse the statement, then Illinois’ state pension funds will need to divest from Unilever under state law.

Other states are taking similar actions. The New York State Comptroller’s Office sent a letter to Unilever on July 23 telling them they have 90 days to prove they aren’t partaking in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activities or else face divestment. The Texas Comptroller is considering taking similar actions. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, wrote a letter to the State Board of Administration urging them to take action against Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever.

In a July 27 letter to the Anti-Defamation League, Unilever CEO Alan Jope wrote: “Unilever rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance. Anti-Semitism has no place in any society. We have never expressed any support for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and have no intention of changing that position.” Jope also wrote that Ben & Jerry’s independent board has the jurisdiction to issue such a stance and that they “emphatically” welcome Ben & Jerry’s to remain in Israel, although the board has issued a statement saying that they did not approve the part of the July 19 statement saying they would be remaining in Israel.

Joel Gasman, the owner of a Ben & Jerry’s shop in the Upper West Side of New York City, told the New York Post that Ben & Jerry’s July 19 decision to leave the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” “has definitely hurt our bottom line.” They have also “lost some foot traffic as well as bigger catering jobs that usually help us during the summer. We’re getting bad reviews online that have nothing to do with the store, only in regards to corporate’s views.” Gasman said that his shop is going to donate 10% of their profits to Israel in response.

“We are proud Jews, Americans, and active supporters of the New York Jewish community and State of Israel,” Gasman wrote in a Facebook post.