“As Arizona Treasurer, I’ve divested all state funds from Ben & Jerry’s for boycotting Israel,” Yee tweeted. “Israel is and will continue to be a major trade partner of AZ. #IStandWithIsrael and I will not allow taxpayer dollars to go towards anti-Semitic, discriminatory efforts against Israel.”
As of June 30, Arizona had $143 million worth of investments in the form of bonds and commercial paper in Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company. But it will be zero by Sept. 21, after the last investment in Unilever matures. Ben & Jerry’s announced in July that it would not be renewing its contract with its licensee in Israel, which the company described as “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Arizona is among 33 states that have passed laws or issued executive orders targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, according to a database maintained by Lara Friedman on behalf of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and Americans for Peace Now, groups that oppose the anti-boycott legislation. Arizona’s 2016 law states that public state entities may not invest money with an entity that boycotts Israel.
Unilever has objected to this and stated that it is not boycotting Israel. Unilever CEO Alan Jope said on July 22, that the company remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel and that it was not involved in Ben & Jerry’s decision. When Unilever acquired Ben and Jerry’s in 2000, it allowed them retain an independent board and to make decisions not approved by the corporate parent.
Regardless, because Ben & Jerry’s is a legal subsidiary of Unilever, the company is in violation of Arizona law, Yee said in a letter to Unilever Sept. 2. “Israel is and will continue to be a major trading partner of Arizona,” Yee said.
Hillel Newman, Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Southwest of the United States, said he appreciates Arizona’s friendship. “Arizona is really a true friend of Israel. I don’t say this about every state,” Newman said. “It’s a wonderful thing when you’ve got a friend like that, who comes out in real time and says, ‘We don’t allow such discrimination in our state.’ That’s a tremendous thing not many governors have done.”