GOP senator wants to punish Ben & Jerry's for not agreeing with him on Israel


Republican Sen. James Lankford has previously railed against 'cancel culture.'

Republican Sen. James Lankford demanded on Wednesday that his home state of Oklahoma ban Ben & Jerry's. His reason: he disagrees with their decision to stop selling ice cream in the West Bank and East Jerusalem at the end of next year.

"#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 tweeted.

"We should immediately block the sale of all #Benandjerrys in the state and in any state-operated facility to align with our law," he urged.

Lankford was upset that Ben & Jerry's announced on Monday it "will end sales of our ice cream in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" when its Israeli licensing arrangement expires at the end of 2022. The company said continuing the arrangement would be "inconsistent" with its values.

Oklahoma is one of 35 states that have passed laws in support of the government in Israel and in opposition to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Its state law, enacted last May, bars the state from contracting with businesses unless they certify in writing that they are not boycotting Israeli products and services.

"Companies that refuse to deal with United States trade partners such as Israel make discriminatory decisions on the basis of national origin that impair those companies' commercial soundness," the law states.

But as KOKH in Oklahoma City noted on Wednesday, the law does not ban private companies from operating in Oklahoma, as Lankford is suggesting.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits state action to restrict freedom of speech — a right the Supreme Court has extended to corporate speech as well as individual speech. Oklahoma's state constitution also guarantees the freedom of speech.

Lankford has previously tried to frame himself as a staunch defender of free speech and the First Amendment.

"The First Amendment right of free speech and right to practice any faith, or no faith, are foundational American values that must extend to everyone, whether they are a pastor, social worker, or any charity employee or volunteer," he wrote in 2019.

He has also been a frequent critic of "cancel culture," arguing that people should not be punished for their views.

In March, he defended Oral Roberts University, posting on social media, "Calls for ORU to be canceled from the NCAA March Madness Men’s Basketball Tournament because of their Christian values goes against the very fiber of our nation's values—we have the right to have faith and live that faith. Cancel culture only wants to yell at people until they comply."

While it appears Lankford is now trying to "cancel" Ben & Jerry's for its political views and business decisions, he and several of his Republican colleagues have rallied to defend Chick-fil-A, despite its history of anti-LGBTQ giving and activism.

In 2012, shortly after the chicken restaurant chain's chair Dan Cathy confirmed that it was "guilty as charged" of opposing LGBTQ families, Lankford pointedly tweeted a photo of the Chick-fil-A he served to his staff.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.