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Ben and Jerry's

Is Scott Stringer doing due diligence or dragging his feet on dumping the Big Apple’s Unilever holdings?

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Jewish activists are slamming the New York City comptroller for not divesting the Big Apple’s pension fund investments in Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, the New York Post reported on Sunday.

Comptroller Scott Stringer oversees the city’s $187 million pension fund — the fourth largest in the U.S.

When Ben & Jerry’s announced in July that it was boycotting Judea and Samaria, more than 30 U.S. states began reviewing their anti-BDS laws and holdings in the London-based Unilever. So far, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey and New York have announced that they have dumped their Unilever investments, or are in the process of doing so. More states are expected to follow suit.

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

Municipal level politicians and activists accuse Stringer of dragging his feet.

Bronx Councilman Eric Dinowitz told the Post he sent a letter to Stringer in July saying the ice cream boycott put Unilever in violation of the city’s anti-BDS laws and called on the comptroller to jettison the city’s Unilever investments. But Dinowitz says Stringer never responded to that letter.

“The BDS movement against Israel helps fuel antisemitism,” Dinowitz told the Post.

When the Post reached out to the comptroller’s office, spokeswoman Amy Varghese said Stringer opposes BDS but hasn’t committed himself to divesting the city’s pension fund because he is still reviewing the matter.

“Comptroller Stringer is opposed to BDS actions and believes them counterproductive to the goal of peace and safety for all peoples in the Middle East. He believes these tactics ultimately threaten efforts for a peaceful two-state solution, rather than fostering understanding and cooperation,” Varghese said.

However, Varghese added, “As part of his due diligence as investment advisor to the five New York City systems [municipal retiree pension funds], Comptroller Stringer has reached out to Unilever to request a meeting and further information. The comptroller’s office continues to monitor the situation.”

According to the Post, “Stringer’s office also noted that he has to get approval from pension-board reps with the city’s five retirement pension systems before making any move. By comparison, [Thomas] DiNapoli is the sole trustee of the state pension fund.”

But local activist and former state assemblyman Dov Hikind didn’t accept that argument.

“State Comptroller DiNapoli did all the homework for Stringer to divest from Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever. DiNapoli did the right thing. What is the city comptroller missing?” Hikind told the Post.

“This is a person who doesn’t have the guts to do the right thing. What point doesn’t Stringer get? Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.”

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.