On Thursday, the New York state comptroller revealed that the state’s enormous pension fund would divest its $111 million in investments from Unilever, the firm that owns Ben & Jerry’s, because Ben & Jerry’s had refused to sell ice cream in the areas of Judea and Samaria in Israel.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who manages the $263 billion state Common Retirement Fund, cited the state comptroller’s policy implemented in 2016 that said Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) of Israel activities harmed Israel.
DiNapoli told the New York Post, “After a thorough review, the New York State Common Retirement Fund will divest its equity holdings in Unilever PLC. Our review of the activities of the company, and its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s, found they engaged in BDS activities under our pension fund’s policy.”
Former Brooklyn state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who served with DiNapoli in the state assembly, lauded the decision, saying, “This is wonderful news. God bless Tom DiNapoli. … BDS equals anti-Semitism and Comptroller DiNapoli stood up against hate.”
In late July, DiNapoli’s director of corporate governance, Liz Gordon, warned Unilever CEO Alan Jope, “The Fund views BDS activities as a potential threat to Israel, its economy, and, as a result, the Fund’s relevant investments. Further, a number of U.S. states have acted or are considering actions to penalize companies that engage in such behavior. … As a result, companies that engage in BDS activities may face legal, reputational and financial risks.”
The Post reported, “JOPE gave a circular response on August 4 defending Ben & Jerry’s actions, saying it doesn’t intervene in actions taken by the ‘independent’ boards or the ‘social mission’ of its brands.”
He wrote, “Unilever has a strong and longstanding commitment to our business in Israel. We employ nearly 2,000 people in the country across our four factories and head office, and we have invested approximately $250 million in the Israeli market over the last decade. … On this decision, it was no different. Ben & Jerry’s has also made it clear that although the brand will not be present in the West Bank from 2023, it will remain in Israel through a different business arrangement.”
The Daily Wire reported in mid-October that Ben & Jerry’s founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield admitted that money was the main reason they don’t boycott sales in states whose policies they disagree with, in the context of their Israel boycott enacted in July:
Axios reporter Alexi McCammond pressed Cohen and Greenfield on their decision to not sell in Israel, but to continue selling in states that have been deemed problematic by Democrats, such as Georgia with its new voting laws, or Texas with its ban on abortions after a heartbeat is detected.
“I don’t know,” shrugged Cohen. “I mean – It’s an interesting question. I don’t know what that would accomplish. We’re working on those issues, of voting rights, and… I don’t know. You know, I mean – I think you ask a really good question. And, I think, I’d have to sit down and think about it for a bit [….] By that reasoning, we should not sell any ice cream anywhere. I’ve got issues with what’s being done in most every state and most every country.”