September 17, 2021
The Honorable Kimberly Yee State Treasurer
Office of the Treasurer
1700 W. Washington Phoenix, Arizona 85007
Dear Ms. Yee:
I am writing to voice Americans for Peace Now’s strong opposition to the decision to divest Arizona State public funds from Unilever PLC.
As a pro-Israel American Jewish organization that cares deeply about Israel’s future, we object because this step undermines efforts to enable Israel to live in peace and to maintain its character as a democracy and a Jewish state. Additionally, your characterization of Ben & Jerry’s action as “antisemitic” hinders the Jewish community’s fight against antisemitism.
You have stated publicly that your decision to divest is due to Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Israel, yet both Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever have stated that their policy is limited to territory that is under Israeli military occupation and subject to a political dispute with the Palestinians. In your direct communication with Unilever PLC, it’s clear, despite the omission from your public statements, that you are aware of the distinction between Israel and the territory it controls in your citation of the statute that the policy violates.
Arizona statutes §35-393 define boycotts to include “territories controlled by Israel.” This specific inclusion reflects some understanding of the difference between the state of Israel and the territories it captured in 1967 to which it has not extended its sovereignty, despite the laws’ efforts to conflate the two.
The United States does not recognize the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of the state of Israel. For a future two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and, indeed, for the future of Israel as a democracy and a Jewish state, it is vital that the distinction between sovereign Israel and the settlements be maintained.
The impact of the law itself and your public representation of the decision to divest are clear attempts to conflate Israeli settlements with Israel and is a divergence from longstanding bipartisan US foreign policy.
You have also characterized Ben & Jerry’s boycott of West Bank settlements as antisemitic. To be clear, choosing to participate in boycotts as an act of political protest is neither anti-Israel nor antisemitic. Americans for Peace Now is deeply concerned with rising antisemitism in the United States and abroad. It is important that antisemitism across the political spectrum be confronted wherever and whenever it occurs. Abuse of the term in an effort to win political battles cheapens and undermines the fight against antisemitism.
I urge you to reconsider your decision to divest public funds from Unilever PLC and to be more circumspect in your characterization of Israeli West Bank settlements and in your future use of the term “antisemitic.”
President and CEO Americans for Peace Now