July 22, 2021
Texas weighs sanctions against Ben & Jerry’s over boycott of Israeli settlements
By Jeremy Blackman, Austin Bureau
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is considering blacklisting the popular ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s over its decision to stop doing business in Israeli-occupied territories.
The Republican official announced Thursday that his staff was investigating whether the company has violated a Texas law that prohibits the state from contracting with entities that boycott Israel.
Ben & Jerry’s, which is based in Vermont and owned by Unilever, announced this week it was pulling its products from shelves in the occupied West Bank and contested East Jerusalem. In a statement, the company said doing business there is “inconsistent with our values.”
Israel has controlled both territories for more than a half century, though Palestinians claim them as part of their own future independent state. Israeli settlements there, home to about 700,000 people, are seen by many in the international community as illegal, and obstacles to peace negotiations between the two groups.
In 2017, the Republican-led Texas Legislature passed a law meant to counter the growing boycott, divest and sanction movement, which encourages companies to pressure Israel into changing its policies toward Palestinians. Nine companies are currently blacklisted.
A search of state records Thursday did not show any existing contracts with Ben & Jerry’s. The comptroller’s office declined interview requests, but in a statement, Hegar said Texans have “made it very clear that they stand with Israel and its people.”
“It is worth noting that thankfully Texans have much better options for a sweet treat this summer,” he said. “Blue Bell was founded in Brenham, Texas and tastes much better than the overpriced, stuck-up stuff made by a foreign-owned company started in Vermont.”
A spokesman for Ben & Jerry’s declined to comment.