A coalition of 12 state attorneys general is calling on Unilever to reverse Ben & Jerry's controversial Israel boycott, saying the parent company has tried to sidestep a decision made by one of its wholly owned subsidiaries but bears "moral and legal responsibility" for the ice-cream maker's anti-Israel move.
"Despite the fact that the policies of most U.S. states opposing boycotts of Israel are widely known, Unilever has embarked on an unfortunate and financially misguided path of testing our states' resolve by refusing to stop Ben & Jerry's from boycotting selected regions within the State of Israel," Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt (R.) wrote in a Monday letter to Unilever CEO Alan Jope. "In keeping with the fiduciary duties required of Unilever under the laws of the United States and under the laws of the individual States represented in this letter, we respectfully urge you to reconsider the decision by you and your subsidiary to boycott Israel."
The letter, signed by the attorneys general of states from Florida to Texas, comes as the British conglomerate faces growing financial pressure over Ben & Jerry's July decision to end sales of its products "in the Occupied Palestinian Territory." Several states, including New York and New Jersey, have moved to divest millions of dollars from Unilever, which purchased the ice cream company in 2000. More than 30 states have passed laws or executive orders that prohibit government investments or contracts with companies that participate in the anti-Israel boycott movement.
Jope has tried to distance Unilever from Ben & Jerry's decision, saying the parent company "remains fully committed to our business in Israel," and placed the responsibility for the boycott on the ice cream company's independent board. The attorneys general warn, however, that "as the corporate parent with complete ownership and control," Unilever is exposing itself to states' anti-boycott laws.
Ben & Jerry's board chairwoman Anuradha Mittal, who helped spearhead the company's Israel boycott, has published columns that defend Hezbollah and Hamas, the Washington Free Beacon reported in July.