Senate Republicans urge Unilever CEO to ‘reverse course’

“We oppose the BDS movement and believe it is important for the United States to combat the movement countries have sought to isolate Israel, our sole democratic ally in the Middle East."

A man holds a small cup of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A man holds a small cup of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

WASHINGTON – Seven Republicans on the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry have sent a letter to Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, urging its CEO “to end the ice cream maker’s boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts against Israel.”

Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Arkansas) spearheaded the letter. He was joined by his colleagues Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), John Thune (R-South Dakota), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mike Braun (R-Indiana).

In a letter to CEO Alan Jope, the lawmakers addressed the decision by Ben & Jerry’s, a Unilever subsidiary, to terminate its relationship with its Israeli licensee when the license agreement expires at the end of next year due to the product being sold in the West Bank and parts of east Jerusalem.

“It is our understanding the decision was made because the Israeli licensee refused to violate Israeli law and end its sales to Israelis and Palestinians living in the West Bank and parts of east Jerusalem,” they wrote. “As strong supporters of Israel, we believe the actions taken by Ben & Jerry’s are an effort to advance the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction [BDS] movement against Israel.”

“We oppose the BDS movement and believe it is important for the United States to combat the movement as a number of countries have sought to isolate Israel, our sole democratic ally in the Middle East, through BDS actions,” the letter said. “We find Ben & Jerry’s actions to be concerning, however it is our understanding that under Unilever’s acquisition agreement, you are able to override this misguided decision.”

 US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate floor at the US Capitol in Washington, US, October 21, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANTZ) US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate floor at the US Capitol in Washington, US, October 21, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANTZ)

Several states around the country have passed anti-BDS legislation, the senators wrote, adding: “It has been reported that several states have been moving closer to divesting from Unilever. We strongly urge you to use your authority to reverse Ben & Jerry’s decision.”

“While we understand it is both Unilever’s and Ben & Jerry’s intention to continue to sell ice cream in Israel, the decision to stop selling in certain areas will undoubtedly embolden Israel BDS supporters and could have unintended consequences,” they wrote. “As members of the United States Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, we will continue working to ensure that our relationship with Israel remains strong, and that the United States takes a strong stance against the BDS movement. We urge you to use your authority to reverse course.”