Ben & Jerry's and its parent company, Unilever, have been placed on the Continued Examination Companies that Boycott Israel List in Florida by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, starting the process to put both on the state's Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is led by Palestinians promoting boycotts, divestments and economic sanctions against Israel.
"As you know, Florida has long had a strong relationship with the State of Israel," DeSantis' letter Thursday to the State Board of Administration read. "As a matter of law and principle, the State of Florida does not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the Israeli people, including boycotts and divestments targeting Israel."
DeSantis wrote that his move comes amid plans for Ben & Jerry's to remove its products and prohibit the sale of its ice cream in Judea and Samaria.
"Should the State Board of Administration affirmatively place Unilever and its corporate entities on the Scrutinized Companies List, and these companies do not cease the boycott of Israel as required by Florida law, the Board must refrain from acquiring any and all Unilever assets consistent with the law," DeSantis' letter added.
The state would be restricted from buying Unilever stock and be unable to contract with its subsidies, including Ben & Jerry's, unless they end their boycott.
"These actions affirm the State of Florida’s relationship with the State of Israel and our commitment to a swift response to those who discriminate against the Israeli people," DeSantis' letter concluded.
Ben & Jerry's said Monday it was going to stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem, saying the sales in the territories sought by the Palestinians are "inconsistent with our values."
Former President Donald Trump's administration was a fervent supporter of Israel, moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
An 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted in May. A cease-fire has been declared, but the politics of settlements remain.
Texas has activated a similar move against Ben & Jerry's this week, led by state Comptroller Glenn Hegar.
"Following recent developments, I've directed my staff to determine whether any specific action has been taken by Ben & Jerry's or Unilever that would trigger a listing under Chapter 808 of the Texas Government Code," Hegar wrote in a statement Thursday.
"If it is determined that Ben & Jerry's or Unilever has engaged in any activities proscribed under Chapter 808, my office will take all appropriate and required actions. Texas Government Code Chapter 808 defines 'boycott Israel' as 'refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or otherwise taking any action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or an Israeli-controlled territory.'"
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing Tuesday that the administration "firmly rejects" the BDS movement.
"While the Biden-Harris administration will fully and always respect the First Amendment rights of our citizens, of the American people, the United States will be a strong partner in fighting efforts around the world that potentially seek to delegitimize Israel and will work tirelessly to support Israel's further integration into the international community," he said.
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