Arizona cancels bonds after Ben & Jerry stopped selling in the occupied territories: NPR


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The trucks were parked at the Ben & Jerry ice cream factory in the Be’er Tuvia industrial zone in Israel on July 20. Arizona sold Unilever bonds because a subsidiary of Ben & Jerry decided to stop selling its ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories. .

Tsafrir Abayov / AP


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Tsafrir Abayov / AP


The trucks were parked at the Ben & Jerry ice cream factory in the Be’er Tuvia industrial zone in Israel on July 20. Arizona sold Unilever bonds because a subsidiary of Ben & Jerry decided to stop selling its ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories. .

Tsafrir Abayov / AP

PHOENIX-Arizona has sold $ 93 million in Unilever bonds and plans to sell the remaining $ 50 million it has invested in a global consumer company due to a Ben & Jerry subsidiary decision to stop selling its ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories. through the actions of states with laws to boycott against Israel.

The investment drives the state Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced this week were ordered by a 2019 state law that prohibits Arizona government agencies from investing or working with more than $ 100,000 with any firm that boycotts Israel or its territories.

Arizona appears to be the first of 35 states with anti-boycott laws or regulations to completely withdraw from Unilever after Ben & Jerry’s actions. Illinois warned the company in July that it had 90 days after the investment board meeting to change course or it would sell as well. Florida and other states have taken similar measures, according to the IAC For Action, the political and legislative department of the Israeli-American Council.

While Ben & Jerry’s, based in Vermont, is owned by London-based Unilever, he maintains his own independent committee, which Unilever says makes the decision on its social mission on its own. Ben & Jerry’s announced on July 19 that his presence in the occupied territories was being maintained “is not in line with our values”.

Ben & Jerry’s decision provoked a strong reaction from Israel, which promised to “act aggressively” in response to the move, including calling on U.S. governors to punish the company under anti-boycott laws. Arizona and 34 other states have laws against boycotting Israel.

U.S. groups supporting Israel are divided over whether Unilever’s withdrawal is appropriate because of Ben & Jerry’s decision. The Israeli-American Council called on the governors to act through the IAC for action.

Then State Senator Kimberly Yee watches the vote at the Capitol in Phoenix 2016. Yee, who is now the Treasurer, announced this week that Arizona has sold $ 93 million in Unilever bonds and plans to sell the remaining $ 50 million invested in global a consumer company.

Bob Christie / AP


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Bob Christie / AP


Then State Senator Kimberly Yee watches the vote at the Capitol in Phoenix 2016. Yee, who is now the Treasurer, announced this week that Arizona has sold $ 93 million in Unilever bonds and plans to sell the remaining $ 50 million invested in global a consumer company.

Bob Christie / AP

IAC Director of Action Joseph Sabag called the boycott of Israel anti-Semitic and said it was important to fight them at the state level.

“The Israeli-American community is sensitive to that, because I would say more than other parts of the Jewish-American community, we have experienced the aspect of anti-Semitism of national origin in a more pronounced way,” Sabag said on Friday. “That’s why we’re very proactive. It’s our children who are affected by this in the classrooms and who are scared and intimidated and feel upset … It’s definitely the interest of our community in this matter.”

But the head of J Street, a Washington-based pro-Israel organization that supports the two-state solution, backed Ben & Jerry’s decision and said punishing the company was “seriously dangerous.”

“It is not anti-Semitism to criticize Israeli policy or not to sell ice cream in illegal settlements,” President Jeremy Ben-Ami tweeted in July. “It’s actually really an Israeli decision.”

Anti-boycott laws face court challenges, as was the case in Arizona after it was first enacted in 2016. Flagstaff’s lawyer, who signed a contract to help defend the prisoner, sued for the First Amendment, claiming that the law violates his rights to freedom of speech.

A A U.S. District Judge in Arizona blocked the execution while the case continued, but the legislature changed the law to apply only to contracts worth more than $ 100,000, thus actually ending the case because it no longer applied to the Flagstaff man. The state was ordered to pay 115,000 dollars for the costs of his lawyer.

In Arkansas, the publisher of the weekly newspaper sued to block the state’s law on similar grounds. Judge dismissed the case, ruling that “a boycott of Israel is neither speech nor inherently expressive behavior” protected by the First Amendment. But divided by a three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. District Court of Appeals renewed the Arkansas Times lawsuit in February, concluding that “supporting or promoting a boycott of Israel is constitutionally protected … yet the Law requires government contractors to refrain from such constitutionally protected activities.”

The verdict is not the last word: on June 8, the judges agreed to hear the case and overturned the decision of the three-judge panel. They will hear arguments in this case later this month.

Both cases were initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In Arizona, meanwhile, Yee wrote to Unilever’s investor relations department on Sept. 2 to tell the company that although Ben & Jerry’s is run independently, Arizona law will require it to sell Unilever’s assets if the decision is not overturned.

“I gave Unilever PLC, Ben & Jerry’s parent company, an ultimatum: reverse Ben & Jerry’s business or deprive Ben & Jerry’s of complying with Arizona law or face the consequences,” Yee, a Republican, is running for governor. statement. “They chose the latter.”

In a letter dated August 2, Unilever told Deputy Treasurer Mark Swenson that he had never supported boycotts of Israel, commonly referred to as sanctions for boycotting sales, or BDS, but that Ben & Jerry’s was acting independently. The company had no additional comments.

Investments in Arizona were in bonds and commercial papers held in a government short-term fixed-income investment fund.

Arizona law adopted 2016 and revised in 2019 had broad, bipartisan support, and was signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. He tweeted that Ben & Jerry’s decision was “discrimination.”

“Arizona will not do business with a company that is boycotting Israel – in 2016 and 2019 I signed bills to make sure of that,” the tweet reads. “Arizona stands by Israel.”


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