Tennessee Governor Bill Lee met with Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan on Thursday to discuss potential anti-BDS statutes in response to Ben & Jerry’s and parent company Unilever’s boycott of Israel.
Dagan arrived in Tennessee after being summoned by Governor Lee. He had spent the last three days in Washington DC garnering support to oppose the Biden administration's attempts to "curb settlement construction."
Dagan asked the governor to consider passing anti-BDS legislation and enforcing it against Unilever, as 35 US States have already done. The actions against Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever are due to their decision to boycott West Bank settlements and Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem by refusing to allow its products to be sold in those areas.
"Unfortunately, the antisemitic organization BDS continues to raise its head all over the world and seeks to harm the State of Israel in general– and settlements in Judea and Samaria in particular,” Dagan told Governor Lee. “You have the tools to stand firm with us and help fight these immoral acts."
35 States in the US have already passed regulations similar to the kind Dagan is proposing for Tennessee. Most of the anti-BDS laws passed target financial investments made by government pensions and other institutions in Unilever or the Ben & Jerry’s franchise. They serve as a warning to the companies, such as in the example of Florida’s legislation to restrict purchases of Unilever PLC assets starting in late October, or New Jersey’s, both of which give the company 90 days to prove it is not involved in a boycott against Israel before the state divests.
"Activating the boycott law is essential to protecting the State of Israel from increasing attacks by antisemitic boycott organizations,” Dagan added. “This is (also) essential to the United States, since the United States and Israel face the same enemies and the same challenges."
Governor Lee told Dagan he will consider the request: "We stand by the people of Samaria, and we will continue to do so."
While 35 out of 50 States have announced action against Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s, only the State of Arizona has announced a full divestment: The state plans to withdraw all of its investments from Unilever, totaling $143 million, by September 21st.
States are not the only US Government entities getting in on the anti-BDS activity– Hempstead, NY, among the United States’ five wealthiest towns per capita and led by Bruce Blakeman, informed Dagan that the Town of Hempstead intends to cut all business ties with the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company last July.
Tovah Lazaroff and Maayan Giloh contributed to this report.