Will 35 US states sue Ben & Jerry’s for its anti-Israel boycott?

Ben & Jerry’s had originally planned a full-blown boycott of Israel.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

As fall-out from the Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Judea and Samaria grows, Israel officials are urging the governors of U.S. states with anti-BDS laws on the books to take action against the ice-cream company.

With 35 states passing various anti-BDS laws in recent years, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan said that he will work to pressure lawmakers to enact consequences for Ben & Jerry’s.

“As Arab nations cancel their decades-long boycott of the Jewish state and sign peace agreements with Israel…American companies with radical ideological agendas cannot be allowed to go against the policy of the United States and act against normalization and peace,” wrote Erdan in an open letter to lawmakers.

He referenced a 2018 announcement by Airbnb that it would stop offering listings in Judea and Samaria.
The company walked back the policy within months after a flurry of U.S. lawsuits, which argued that Airbnb was violating anti-BDS laws.

“I believe today, as I did back in 2018 when I served as Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, that rapid and determined action must be taken to counter such discriminatory and anti-Semitic actions. We must stand united and send an unequivocal message that this will not be tolerated.”

Many anti-BDS laws in the U.S. prohibit pension fund investment or state-backed business contracts for companies engaging in a boycott of Israel, which could put serious financial pressure on Ben & Jerry’s.

Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, may have sought to establish a loophole by adding into the statement a clarification that the ice cream company would continue selling in Israel “proper.”

Distinguishing between the settlements and the rest of Israel could potentially give Unilever wiggle room to argue that they are not violating anti-BDS laws.

Anuradha Mittal, the Chair of Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, told NBC News that the statement had been edited by Unilever.

Originally, she explained, the ice-cream company had planned a full-blown boycott of Israel, but their parent company intervened and changed the statement at the last minute without informing Ben & Jerry’s.

“I am saddened by the deceit of it,” Mittal said. “This is not about Israel; it is about the violation of the acquisition agreement that maintained the soul of the company.”

She also suggested that Unilever’s business decision to continue operating in Israel, despite Ben & Jerry’s objections, was inherently racist and sexist.

“I can’t stop thinking that this is what happens when you have a board with all women and people of color who have been pushing to do the right thing,” she said.