TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to put Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever on a state watch list due to the company’s decision to end sales in disputed territories in and around Israel.
On Thursday, DeSantis sent a letter to the State Board of Administration, asking the board to “immediately place Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on the Continued Examination Companies that Boycott Israel List.”
Florida Rep. Randy Fine, R-Broward County, is the only Jewish Republican in the state legislature. He said Florida has the right to boycott any companies that boycott Israel.
“This does not affect any individual consumer’s right,” Fine said. “People should be able to buy whatever they want from whomever they want, but the state of Florida has a right to decide who it buys products from, as well.”
On Monday, the ice cream maker released a statement on its website stating, “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).”
The company also tweeted the statement, which was the first tweet in more than two months from a company known for its social media presence. The account had been silent since mid-May, when its last tweet about mint ice cream received hundreds of critical replies about its operations in the disputed areas.
The release also stated, “Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement.”
Fine said despite the “boycott” being aimed at only part of Israel, it still triggers the state law he sponsored.
“This is all land that Israel won after it was attacked in 1967,” Fine said. “It has every right to it. It chooses to give it away; that’s up to Israel. but it’s certainly not occupied.”
Fine also posted on social media that the decision isn’t just about Ben & Jerry’s. Unilever is a massive global company with more than 400 brands under its control, and Florida could stop purchasing all of them, as well as investing in Unilever stock.
We also asked multiple members of the Florida Jewish Democratic Caucus for their feelings on the issue.
Rep. Joe Geller, D-Broward County, an original co-sponsor of the scrutinized companies legislation, was unavailable for comment.
Rep. Mike Gottlieb, D-Miami-Dade County, said he’s pleased with the governor for making this move.
“It smacks of anti-semitism,” said Gottlieb over the phone. “I don’t understand it. I’m glad the governor did this.”
8 On Your Side reached out to Democratic candidate for governor and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is Jewish, to ask her opinion on the issue. Her team said, “We’re declining to comment at this time.”