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GOP Sen James Lankford Calls for Banning Ben & Jerrys in Oklahoma Over Israel Stance

Stock up on “Half-Baked” now, Oklahomans

Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma is calling on his state to ban Ben & Jerry’s ice cream now that the company is halting sales in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory.

The Republican senator took to Twitter on Wednesday to express his outrage over Ben & Jerry’s recent announcement that they’d put an end to their licensing agreement with their manufacturer and product distributor in Israel, describing the nation’s policy as “inconsistent” with company values.

“#Benandjerrys has now decided they know more about Jerusalem than the Israelis.” Lankford wrote. “If Ben & Jerry’s wants to have a meltdown & boycott Israel, OK is ready to respond. Oklahoma has an anti-boycott of Israel law in place.”

“We should immediately block the sale of all #Benandjerrys in the state and in any state-operated facility to align with our law.” he added in a follow-up tweet. 

On Monday, Ben & Jerry’s became one of the highest-profile companies to publicly rebuke Israel’s policy of settling its citizens on war-won lands. 

“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).” the statement began. 

“We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year,” the ice cream company continued, adding that they would find a way to stay in Israel “through a different arrangement.”

The Vermont-based ice cream brand’s announcement arrived after two months of social media silence. The company went quiet after its Twitter account posted a tweet during the Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip in May, leading some users to bash the timing of the tweet and the supposed hypocrisy of Ben & Jerry’s business in the region. 

Over the past few years, the company has issued consistent and vocal support for a number of social causes including criminal justice reform, voting rights and racial justice.

Lankford is referring to a bill passed in Oklahoma last May that declared Israel “a prominent trading partner of the State of Oklahoma” and “that the state, and those companies that do business by and through the state, in the interest of the state’s economic policy, should not boycott trade with Israel.”

The bill also asserts that the state should not adopt any policy that aims at inducing or requiring a person to boycott the government of Israel nor a person doing business in Israel or territories under its jurisdiction if the boycott is on the basis of such person’s location in such areas.

However, state Rep. Mark McBride, one of the main proponents of the bill, clarified that the law only applies to the state of Oklahoma and who it does business with.

“If Ben & Jerry’s was a vendor [of the state], then we would not do business, but they are not a vendor of Oklahoma.” McBride said to The Hill, adding that he personally will no longer be purchasing from the brand. 

Anti-Ben & Jerry’s sentiment doesn’t stop in Oklahoma though. Unilever Plc, which acquired the brand in 2000, has been threatened with “severe consequences” by the Israeli government itself.