The Acting Director of the State of New Jersey’s Division of Investment, Shoaib Khan, on Tuesday announced he plans to divest investments in Unilever, which owns Ben & Jerry’s, following an internal investigation that found that the Vermont-based ice cream maker is boycotting Israel (Ben & Jerry’s Joins BDS Boycott of Israel).
Unilever North America, which is based in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, has 90 days to appeal the decision.
“No pension fund assets may be invested in the company, and DOI shall take appropriate action to sell or divest any existing pension fund investments,” Khan said. According to him, his division hired ISS, an independent consulting company, to review Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever’s recent ban on the sale of their products in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria “to determine whether such actions constituted a boycott of Israel or companies operating in Israel or Israeli-controlled territory.”
“Following this review, the division reached a preliminary determination that Unilever’s actions did, in fact, constitute such a boycott and sent a letter to Unilever notifying the company of its provisional determination,” Khan said.
NJ Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., co-sponsor of the State’s anti-boycott law (together with Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg), said: “Our anti-BDS law was one of the first in the nation to use the power of state investment decisions to remove support for businesses that boycott Israel. The announcement by Treasury that state investment will be prohibited in the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s following a review we requested pursuant to the law we enacted is yet another example that the process works as intended.”
Kean added: “Our law sends the clear message that New Jersey will not tolerate anti-Semitism and we won’t financially support businesses that target Israel. There are plenty of businesses that don’t engage in BDS activities where New Jersey’s $90 billion pension fund can be invested to the benefit of our public workers.”
The CEOs of five Jewish federations: Heart of New Jersey, Federation of South Jersey, Federation of Northern New Jersey, Federation of Greater MetroWest, and Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren, issued a statement saying, “We commend the State of New Jersey for their decision, delivering a rebuke to those who would discriminate against the State of Israel – an ally of the United States and a vibrant economic partner of the State.”