New York withdraws Ben & Jerry’s pension funds over boycott of Israeli-occupied territories

The massive New York state pension fund is pulling $111 million in investments from the company that owns Ben & Jerry’s because of the ice cream maker’s boycott of Israeli-occupied territories, The Post has learned.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli – the sole manager of the state’s $263 billion Joint Retirement Fund – said Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling ice cream in the disputed Israeli-Palestinian territories in July violated his office’s policy against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

As a result, the comptroller rips off $111 million in equity investments from Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company.

“After careful review, the New York State Common Retirement Fund will divest its interests in Unilever PLC. Our review of the operations of the company and its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s revealed that they were engaging in BDS activities under the our pension fund policy,” DiNapoli said in a statement to the Post.

New York State withdrew $111 million in investments from Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, following the company’s boycott of Israeli-occupied territories.
AFP via Getty Images

The state comptroller’s policy, established in June 2016, states that BDS activities are intended to inflict economic harm on Israel and, therefore, on the state pension fund’s investments in the Jewish state. The state pension fund – the third largest in the country – invests more than $800 million in retirement funds in Israel.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said a review found Ben & Jerry's
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said a review found Ben & Jerry’s “engaged in BDS activities” under the retirement policy.
New York State Commission Office

The policy warned companies involved in BDS activities against Israel that the state would withdraw its pension investments.

“We are going to divest these investments. Ben & Jerry’s has engaged in BDS activities,” a DiNapoli spokesperson said.

Israel’s allies have applauded DiNapoli for championing the Jewish state.

An Israeli flag is placed on a delivery truck outside the Ben & Jerry's factory in Beer Tuvia, July 21, 2021.
An Israeli flag is placed on a delivery truck outside the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Beer Tuvia, July 21, 2021.
AFP via Getty Images

“This is wonderful news. God bless Tom DiNapoli,” former Brooklyn State Assemblyman Dov Hikind said.

“BDS equals anti-Semitism and Comptroller DiNapoli spoke out against hate.”

Hikind and DiNapoli served together for years in the State Assembly, and the Comptroller personally called Hikind Thursday night to inform him of his action against Unilever/Ben & Jerry’s.

DiNapoli’s director of corporate governance, Liz Gordon, sent a warning to Unilever CEO Alan Jope that Ben & Jerry’s was engaging in BDS action against Israel.

Jope gave a circular response Aug. 4 defending Ben & Jerry’s actions, saying Unilever does not interfere with actions taken by “independent” boards or the “social mission” of its brands.

“Unilever has a strong and longstanding commitment to our business in Israel. We employ nearly 2,000 people in the country at our four factories and headquarters, and have invested around $250 million in the Israeli market over the past decade,” Jope said in a letter to Gordon.

Ben and Jerry's ice cream has stopped selling its ice cream to the Occupied Palestinian Territory due to conflicting values.
Ben and Jerry’s has stopped selling its ice cream to the occupied Palestinian territories.
Robert Miller

The Unilever boss added: “On this decision it was no different. Ben & Jerry’s also clarified that while the brand will not have a presence in the West Bank from 2023, it will remain in Israel through a different trade agreement.

Last month, the state of New Jersey began divesting $182 million invested in Unilever stocks, bonds and other securities following Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Israel, joining other states anti-BDS, including Arizona and Texas.

Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield supported the decision to halt sales in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
Founders Ben Cohen (left) and Jerry Greenfield backed the decision to halt sales in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Courtesy of HBO

On July 19, Ben and Jerry’s announced it would stop selling ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories, saying it “is not in line with our values” to do business there.

Ben and Jerry’s Jewish co-founders Bennett Cohen and Jerry Greenfield – who sold their namesake company to Unilever in 2000 – defended the company’s decision to end sales in the region in a New York Times op-ed in July, writing that Israel was one of the first countries in which the company expanded internationally as it grew.

The founders, who called themselves “proud Jews,” said it was “possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies,” just as they “opposed the policies of the US government.”

Additional reporting by Patrick Reilly