New York pension fund halts investments in Unilever over Ben & Jerry Israel’s stance

(New York Jewish Week via JTA) – The New York State pension fund will divest its Unilever holdings in response to the conglomerate’s affiliate Ben & Jerry’s July decision to restrict ice cream sales. in the West Bank.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s announcement Thursday makes New York the fourth state to take action to sanction Ben & Jerry’s parent company for its stance on Israel, after New Jersey, Arizona and Florida. At least four other states have launched reviews investigating whether Ben & Jerry’s decision could result in sanctions on the company under state laws aimed at combating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel.

“Our review of the activities of the company, and its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s, found that they participated in BDS activities under the policy of our pension fund,” said DiNapoli, who manages New’s $ 268 billion retirement fund. York, in a statement to the New York Post. .

The New York State Pension Fund currently holds $ 111 million in Unilever stock.

Marc Stern, legal director of the American Jewish Committee, praised the decision. “Comptroller DiNapoli has shown that boycotting Israel has consequences. Unilever’s failure to undo Ben & Jerry’s mistaken decision to stop selling its ice cream in the West Bank contravenes the laws of the state government in the United States, ”he said in a press release.

“Congratulations and thanks to the State of New York for responding to our request and withdrawing $ 111 million from its investments in Ben & Jerry’s due to the boycott of Israel,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid wrote in a statement on Twitter. “We will continue to fight BDS and anti-Semitism everywhere and without hesitation,” he said.

In July, DiNapoli wrote to Unilever CEO Alan Jope, telling him he was “concerned and concerned” that Ben & Jerry’s would no longer sell ice cream in what the company called the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

“If the company does not respond or does not demonstrate that it has not participated in BDS activities, the Fund’s investment in Unilever will be subject to a detailed review and recommendation from staff, which may include investment restrictions, in accordance with BDS policy. from the Fund, ”the letter said.

In 2016, the fund adopted a policy that says there will be consequences for companies involved in BDS activities that would put the fund’s investments in Israel at risk.

Unilever has said that due to its unique ownership arrangement with Ben & Jerry’s board, the conglomerate does not have the ability to influence the ice cream maker’s “independent” business decisions. Ben & Jerry’s has said that removing its products from the West Bank is not boycotting Israel.

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