TALLAHASSEE -- State leaders are threatening to punish Ben & Jerry's over its decision to pull out of the West Bank, using a law against boycotts of Israel, while the state representative who wrote the law wonders what the ice cream company's executives were thinking.
Last week, Ben and Jerry's announced that its ice cream would not be sold in areas it described as the "Occupied Territories", the areas Israel captured in the Six-Day War of 1967, Activists have pushed for various boycotts of Israel, usually of Israeli exports, in a movement called "Boycott, Divestiture and Sanctions" (BDS).
Florida passed a law prohibiting the state from buying from or investing in any business that boycotts Israel. "You boycott Israel and we boycott you," Melbourne State Representative Randy Fine, who wrote the law, explains it in a nutshell. Fine says "we have a zero-tolerance policy against these types of bigots."
But he sees the Ben & Jerry's situation as more "stupid" than anything else. "They are going to eliminate the ability of customers on the West Bank to buy their product, most of whom are Muslims that they claim to care about." He says the company's executives are hypocrites as "by their definition, (they operate) on occupied territory that we took from the Indians hundreds of years ago."
Fine isn't sure whether the law applies to a refusal to market products, saying "it's a very weird thing they're doing... they're not punishing Israel." He says their decision hurts Palestinians who would work in their West Bank factory and buy their product.
If the law is found to apply, Fine says it would apply not only to Ben & Jerry's but to its parent company, Unilever, which makes all sorts of food and household products, including Lipton tea and Dove soap.
Governor DeSantis announced Thursday that he's asking the State Board of Administration to determine whether Unilever should go on a list of "scrutinized" companies. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is vowing to prevent any contracts unless the ban is reversed.
These sorts of warnings moved AirBnB to reverse its ban on rentals in Jewish settlements on the West Bank two years ago.
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