The US state of Florida on Tuesday will begin to divest from, and stop contracting business with, the UK conglomerate Unilever, in response to the decision by Unilever subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling ice cream in Israeli West Bank settlements. The move comes three months after Gov. Ron DeSantis added Unilever to the Florida State Board of Administration’s (SBA) list of “scrutinized companies” that boycott Israel. The SBA, which manages investments for Florida’s pension and hurricane catastrophe funds, holds a $139 million stake in Unilever – a negligible 0.0695% of its $200 billion portfolio. Unilever, which has a market capitalization of about $138 billion, is unlikely to be moved by the gesture. But this could be just the beginning. The legislatures in 35 US states have passed laws instructing their governments to refrain from investing in or doing business with companies that boycott Israel. Unilever doesn’t actually boycott Israel; it has a large presence in the country, manufacturing and distributing products for both the local and export market under popular brand names like Telma and Dove, and says it will continue selling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the Jewish state. Nevertheless, the Ben & Jerry’s settlement boycott has triggered anti-BDS measures against the parent company not only in Florida but in Arizona and Texas, as well. Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island may soon follow suit.
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