The New York State Common Retirement Fund announced on Thursday that it would pull tens of millions of dollars in investments out of Unilever because Ben & Jerry insists on discriminating against Israel, said Tom DiNapoli, the retirement fund’s state comptroller.
“After a thorough review, the New York State Common Retirement Fund will divest its equity holdings in Unilever PLC,” DiNapoli told the New York Post. “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.”
BDS is a movement that stands for boycott, divestment, and sanctions. It is intended to inflict economic harm against Israel.
DiNapoli’s director of corporate governance warned Unilever back in July that Ben & Jerry’s was engaging in discriminatory, pro-BDS action when it said it would stop selling ice cream in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“The Fund views BDS activities as a potential threat to Israel, its economy, and, as a result, the Fund’s relevant investments,” Liz Gordon, executive director of the fund’s corporate governance, said in a letter to Unilever CEO Alan Jope.
“Further, a number of U.S. states have acted or are considering actions to penalize companies that engage in such behavior,” she added. “As a result, companies that engage in BDS activities may face legal, reputational and financial risks.”
Ben & Jerry’s anti-Israel policies have drawn widespread criticism. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned the company of “severe consequences” and pledged to take “strong action against any boycott directed against its citizens.”
Pro-Israel advocates praised the retirement fund for standing up to Ben & Jerry’s.
“This is wonderful news. God bless Tom DiNapoli,” said former Brooklyn state Assemblyman Dov Hikind. “BDS equals anti-Semitism and Comptroller DiNapoli stood up against hate.”