US state of Florida blacklists Ben & Jerry’s

The US state of Florida has taken action against Ben & Jerry’s due to the ice cream company’s decision to stop selling products in Israeli settlements. 

“As a matter of law and principle, the State of Florida will not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the Israeli people,” Governor Ron DeSantis said in a Tuesday statement. 

Last month, the US-based Ben & Jerry’s announced it would stop selling its products in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The company had sustained criticism for years for its factory in Israel and its sales to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Ben & Jerry’s said it would continue to sell in Israel, but the issue touched a nerve in the country. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is relatively well-known in Israel and internationally, and the company has kosher products

In response to the decision, DeSantis asked Florida’s State Board of Administration in July to add Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever to the state’s List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel. The list consists of companies that boycott Israel, and Florida prohibits state entities from doing business with them as a result. Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever were added to the list Monday, and have 90 days to reverse their decision before the investment prohibition kicks in, according to the release. 

DeSantis’ statement referred to the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria,” which is the term used by religious Zionists who reject Palestinian sovereignty over the area. 

Friendship between Florida and Israel is not new. In June, Israel sent rescuers to the Miami suburb of Surfside following a building collapse.

DeSantis was not the only US politician to speak out against Ben & Jerry’s. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar also said in July he would consider adding the ice cream company to its list of companies that boycott Israel. Several US states have laws preventing their governments from doing business with such companies, including New York. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would not buy Ben & Jerry’s anymore in response to the move. 

Florida’s decision is likely to please the Israeli government. Last month, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan wrote a letter to dozens of governors of US states with legislation targeting anti-Israel boycotts. He asked the leaders to “consider speaking out against” Ben & Jerry’s and “taking any other relevant steps.” 

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