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Lankford Walks Back Call For Statewide Ban On Sale Of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

Office of Sen. James Lankford
Undated file photo of Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).

Following the ice cream maker's announcement that it would no longer sell its products in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) on Wednesday called for a ban on the sale of Ben & Jerry's ice cream in Oklahoma, before walking back his remarks shortly thereafter.

"#Benandjerrys has now decided they know more about Jerusalem than the Israelis. 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," Lankford wrote on Twitter. "We should immediately block the sale of all #Benandjerrys in the state and in any state-operated facility to align with our law."

In a Facebook Live video posted later on Wednesday, Lankford said he did not, in fact, want the ice cream to be banned from being sold in retail stores in Oklahoma.

"It's literally this company taking a stand saying, 'We're anti-Israeli, that we're pro-Palestinian in this, and we're trying to be able to make a stand as a company,'" Lankford said. "Which their company is free to do if they want to do that, but our country is also free to be able to respond to that."

"Our state -- many people don't know this -- but our state last year, in our state legislature, took a great stand on the BDS [boycott, divest, sanction] movement that's an anti-Israeli movement," Lankford said. "Our state passed a state law that said any company that has a contract with the state of Oklahoma, if they're also a BDS company, if they're boycotting Israel at the same time, the state of Oklahoma will not do contracts with them."

Lankford said he was calling on the state to check its vendors to assess whether or not Ben & Jerry's and its parent company Unilever have any state contracts.

"If grocery stores want to sell Ben & Jerry's, if people want to have private, standalone Ben & Jerry's and be able to go to that, that's totally up to you," Lankford said. "Our state law says, though, our state won't participate in our contracting as a state with any state-run facility with any company that actually has a BDS movement."

"It's not blocking somebody from buying Ben & Jerry's. If you want to buy it at the grocery store, have at it. If you want to buy Ben & Jerry's ice cream, go for it," Lankford said. "I personally am going to buy Braum's ice cream. There are lots of other varieties. I'm not going to buy Ben & Jerry's, but it's your free right to be able to do that. But I think our state as a whole should continue to be able to stand with Israel."

"That's why ice cream, today, is a national issue," Lankford said.

The ice cream maker, founded by American Jews Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in Vermont in 1978, has been labeled "antisemitic" by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid for its recent decision. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday he would be boycotting the company.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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