AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has designated Ben & Jerry's as a company that boycotts Israel under a law that forbids state contracts and investments with firms that take adverse action against the U.S. ally.
In July, the socially conscious company announced that it will stop selling its ice cream in Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, saying it was inconsistent with its corporate values to continue doing business "within an internationally recognized illegal occupation."
Ben & Jerry's insisted that it was not boycotting Israel, noting that it will continue doing business in the nation, though not the West Bank or parts of contested East Jerusalem, after its current licensing agreement expires at the end of 2022. Those arrangements are being worked out, the company said.
But Hegar said Thursday Texas law defines boycotting 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 an Israeli-controlled territory."
'Compliance of state law': Israeli leaders are asking states to sanction Ben & Jerry's after Palestinian boycott
Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's and its parent company, Unilever, ran afoul of that law, joining nine other companies listed as those that boycott Israel, Hegar said.
"As with any of our listing decisions, my office, in cooperation with our research providers, carefully reviewed statements and activities by both Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever before concluding that they are suitable candidates for the Texas list," Hegar said.
State-run pension and investment funds like the Teacher Retirement System cannot invest in companies on the list, and state agencies cannot do business with designated boycotters.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of the ice cream brand, insisted that the decision was not a rejection of Israel in a July essay in The New York Times.
"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," they wrote. "As Jewish supporters of the State of Israel, we fundamentally reject the notion that it is anti-Semitic to question the policies of the State of Israel."
New Jersey and Arizona have begun divesting state-run funds of Unilever stock and other securities for its actions related to Israel, and New York and Florida are looking into the matter, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Follow Chuck Lindell on Twitter: @chucklindell.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas labels Ben & Jerry's as company that boycotts Israel