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Arizona treasurer pulls investments from Ben & Jerry's over Israel boycott

State Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced on Tuesday she was withdrawing $143 million in investments from a conglomerate that owns Ben & Jerry's.
Credit: AP

PHOENIX — Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee is boycotting Ben & Jerry's after the national ice cream franchise announced earlier this year it was taking a stand against Israel.

Yee announced on Tuesday she was divesting public funds from Unilever, a British food company that acquired Ben & Jerry's in 2000 after the ice cream producer decided to discontinue business in Israel's settlements. 

Because Arizona law specifically prohibits state agencies from investing public funds in entities that boycott Israel, Yee said she was obligated to reduce investments in Unilever by Sept. 21. 

“Israel is and will continue to be a major trade partner of Arizona," Yee said. "As Arizona’s chief banking and investment officer, I stand with Israel, and I will not allow taxpayer dollars to go towards anti-Semitic, discriminatory efforts against Israel.”

Yee, a Republican who is running for governor in 2022, has already reduced the state's investments in Unilever from $143 million to $50 million and the investments will completely end by the end of this month. 

"Arizona will not do business with companies that are attempting to undermine Israel’s economy and blatantly disregarding Arizona’s law,” the treasurer added.

In July, Ben & Jerry's announced it would no longer sell ice cream in the "Occupied Palestinian Territory," a term used by the United Nations to describe disputed land that is at odds between Israel and Palestine. 

"We’re a values-led company with a long history of advocating for human rights, and economic and social justice," the company said. "We believe it is inconsistent with our values for our product to be present within an internationally recognized illegal occupation."

Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, co-founders of Ben & Jerry's, have said they will continue to do business within Israel's democratic borders under a new arrangement.

But their decision to stop sales in the "occupied" areas is not intended to be a rejection of Israel. 

"It is a rejection of Israeli policy, which perpetuates an illegal occupation that is a barrier to peace and violates the basic human rights of the Palestinian people who live under the occupation," the founders wrote in an essay.

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