(United With Israel)
Ben and Jerry's

Arizona, Florida and New Jersey have already divested or are in the process of divesting from Unilever. New York joined the club, and other states are considering making the move.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

It appears that boycotting Israel — or even just Judea and Samaria, the ancient homeland of the Jewish people — doesn’t pay.

New York state’s pension fund will dump $111 million in investments in Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who oversees the fund, confirmed to the New York Post on Friday that the divestment was because of Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Judea and Samaria.

“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,” DiNapoli said in a statement to the Post.

With $263 billion, the New York State Common Retirement Fund is the third-largest public pension fund in the U.S. Only California’s separate pension funds for public employees and teachers are larger.

Not long after the boycott was announced in July, the comptroller’s office notified Alan Jope, CEO of the London-based conglomerate, that Unilever was engaging in Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activities and risked a state review and possible divestment.

Unilever maintains that under the terms of its acquisition of the Vermont-based ice cream company, the Ben & Jerry’s board of directors may independently set its own social mission policy.

According to the Post, Jope replied in August that “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.”

The CEO then added, “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.”

However, Unilever’s initial actions during the boycott’s early stages contradict that non-interference position. Ben & Jerry’s board chair Anuradha Mittal confirmed in July that the board wanted to boycott all of Israel, but was pre-empted by Unilever. The parent company issued a statement insisting that while Judea and Samaria would be boycotted, the State of Israel would not.

“I am saddened by the deceit of it,” Mittal told NBC News at the time. “This is not about Israel. It is about the violation of the acquisition agreement that maintained the soul of the company. I can’t stop thinking that this is what happens when you have a board with all women and people of color who have been pushing to do the right thing.”

More than 30 states have anti-BDS laws. These laws include divesting state holdings in companies that engage in BDS, or entering into contracts with them.

State laws against BDS have ensured the boycotters get their just desserts. Arizona, Florida, and New Jersey have already completed or are in the process of divesting a combined $393 million in Unilever investments. Other states are examining whether Unilever has violated their anti-BDS laws.

These laws are credited with quickly reversing Airbnb’s boycott of Israeli settlements in 2019.

Unilever’s 400 brands include a wide variety of familiar consumer goods such as Dove personal care products, Lipton tea, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Sunlight soap.