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NY Comptroller Announces Divestment from Unilever Over Ben & Jerry’s Israel Decision

DiNapoli’s office concluded that Ben & Jerry’s Israel decision amounted to “BDS activities” and will therefore be divesting its state pension funds from Unilever.
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October 29, 2021
Protesters stand outside Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream at their Manhattan store on August 12, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced on October 28 that the state will be divesting from its $110 million in Unilever holdings over Ben & Jerry’s Israel decision.

Ben & Jerry’s had announced in July that they are going to cease doing business in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory”; Unilever is the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s.  Unilever CEO Alan Jope has stated that the company does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and does not plan to ever support it.

Nevertheless, DiNapoli’s office concluded that Ben & Jerry’s Israel decision amounted to “BDS activities” and will therefore be divesting its state pension funds from Unilever. New Jersey and Arizona have also announced that they will be divesting from Unilever over the matter.

Jewish groups praised DiNapoli’s decision.

“Comptroller DiNapoli has demonstrated that boycotting Israel has consequences,” American Jewish Committee Chief Legal Officer Marc Stern said in a statement. “Unilever’s failure to undo Ben & Jerry’s misguided decision to stop selling its ice cream in the West Bank contravenes state government laws across the United States.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted praise for DiNapoli’s announcement against Ben & Jerry’s “illegal boycott of East Jerusalem and West Bank.”

Stop Antisemitism tweeted to Jope, “Boycotts work both ways.”

StandWithUs Co-Founder and CEO Roz Rothstein urged Unilever in a tweet to overrule Ben & Jerry’s Israel decision. “You can, and you should. Before this gets worse.” Rothstein had written a letter to Unilever earlier on October on behalf of StandWithUs and the Israeli-American Coalition for Action arguing that Unilever actually has the power under their contractual agreement with Ben & Jerry’s to veto them on this matter.

Former New York Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who heads the Americans Against Antisemitism watchdog, said in a video that New Yorkers are “grateful” for DiNapoli’s decision. “We are so proud of your actions and the actions of your office in doing the right thing,” he said, adding that Ben & Jerry’s Israel decision was “unacceptable.” But Hikind wanted to know why Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, hasn’t addressed it yet.

“What doesn’t she get that the comptroller clearly gets?” Hikind said. “What is she waiting for? Why isn’t she doing the right thing and divesting from Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s, that the state of New York does not purchase anything from them?”

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