New Jersey to Divest From Unilever Over Ben & Jerry’s and Israel


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Mr. Jope also addressed the complex relationship between Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s. After Unilever bought the company in 2000, Ben & Jerry’s retained its own board of directors. That board has the right to “take decisions in accordance with its social mission,” Mr. Jope wrote.

Ben & Jerry’s, which Mr. Cohen and Mr. Greenfield started in Vermont in the 1970s, has always promoted a progressive worldview, exemplified by tie-dyed T-shirts and ice-cream bars called Peace Pops. The founders are no longer on the four-member board, but its chair, Anuradha Mittal, says her role includes ensuring that Ben & Jerry’s sets standards for other companies.

A spokesman for Ben & Jerry’s, Sean Greenwood, declined to comment on New Jersey’s decision.

State Senator Tom Kean, a Republican, said the move demonstrated the success of the 2016 law he co-sponsored with State Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat. The law prohibits public investments in companies that engage in boycotts, divestment or sanctions of Israel.

“Our law sends the clear message that New Jersey will not tolerate anti-Semitism and we won’t financially support businesses that target Israel,” Mr. Kean said.

Mr. Kean said this was not the first time the law had been employed successfully. In 2019. New Jersey said it would be prohibited from investing in Airbnb because the company refused to list rental accommodations in Israeli settlements in occupied territories. Following similar actions by other states, Airbnb reversed its policy.

The leaders of the Jewish Federations of New Jersey praised the choice to divest from Unilever in a statement: “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.”

But Selaedin Maksut, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the decision “shameful.” He applauded Ben & Jerry’s and said accusations of anti-Semitism were a smoke screen to distract from Israel’s actions in the occupied territories.

“I am deeply disturbed that the State of New Jersey would actively punish its residents and businesses who boycott foreign nations that participate in war crimes,” he said. “Boycott and criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism, it is standing up to an oppressive, institutionally racist, far-right-wing government. I expect New Jersey to reconsider its decision, lest it finds itself on the wrong side of history.”


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