Md. to review state contracts with Ben & Jerry’s over Israeli boycott

Maryland plans to take a closer look at any business dealings that the state might have with Ben & Jerry’s after the company said it decided to halt business operations in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Baltimore Jewish Council, Maryland Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith vowed to find out if the state has any existing contracts with the ice cream maker and its parent company, Unilever, and that “the State will respond accordingly.”

On July 19, Ben & Jerry’s announced it would cease operations in occupied Palestinian territories, saying it’s “inconsistent with our values.”

Wobensmith said in his letter that the company might have broken state law based on an executive order from Gov. Larry Hogan, which outlines business contracts with executive branch agencies.

Wobensmith said the order forbids businesses from entering contracts with the state “unless it certifies that it will, for the duration of its contractual obligations, refrain from a boycott of Israel.”

The letter was in response to demands from both the JCRC and BJC to investigate the matter and take action “against companies that seek to delegitimize the democratic State of Israel and negate the right of Israel to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people through discriminatory business practices.”

“The State of Maryland values our decadeslong relationship with Israel and … [looks] forward to continued robust work between Maryland and Israel,” Wobensmith wrote.

“This is an important step in upholding Maryland’s commitment to inclusion and tolerance,” said  Ronald Halber, executive director of the JCRC of Greater Washington, in a responding news release.

“We appreciate Governor Hogan’s commitment to cooperating with Israel and to his refusal to allow bullies to dictate our business practices,” Halber said.

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Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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