New Jersey is set to divest pension funds from the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s over the Vermont-based ice cream company’s decision to stop selling its product in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
There are currently over 30 US states with laws against the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that calls for international boycotts to put pressure on Israel over its war crimes against the Palestinians. The law prohibits the states from doing business with individuals or companies that boycott Israel.
New Jersey’s Division of Investment said Tuesday that it made a preliminary determination that keeping investments in Unilever, of which Ben & Jerry’s is a subsidiary, violates its anti-BDS laws. The state gave Unilever 90 days to convince Ben & Jerry’s to change the move.
New Jersey currently has $182 million in Unilever stocks and bonds in its pension funds. The decision comes after Arizona began divesting $143 million pension funds from Unilever, citing anti-BDS laws.
“Arizona will not do business with companies that are attempting to undermine Israel’s economy and blatantly disregarding Arizona’s law,” Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee said last week. “As Arizona’s chief banking and investment officer, I stand with Israel, and I will not allow taxpayer dollars to go toward antisemitic, discriminatory efforts against Israel.”
The idea that Ben & Jerry’s decision is “discriminatory” or “antisemitic” ignores the fact that the ice cream company plans to keep selling its product in Israel. The ban only applies to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Unilever has been clear that it is not boycotting Israel and that Ben & Jerry’s makes such decisions independently.
After Ben & Jerry’s made its announcement in July, Israel launched a “maximum pressure” campaign to influence the US and urged states with anti-BDS laws on the books to take action. While New Jersey and Arizona are the first states to take steps to withdraw pension funds, several other states were quick to warn Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s on behalf of Israel, including New York, Flordia, and Texas, and could be next to divest.