New York to divest from Ben & Jerry's over Israel boycott

New York state to divest from Ben & Jerry’s over Israel settlements boycott
2 min read
14 November, 2021
New York State has given notice to Ben & Jerry's and its parent company Unilever that it will divest funds from them after Ben & Jerry's announced in July that it will pull out of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Ben & Jerry's announced in July that it would stop selling its products in West Bank settlements [Getty]

The government of New York State has warned the multinational goods company Unilever and its subsidiary company Ben & Jerry’s that it may soon divest from them over what the state claims is participation in the boycott of Israel.

Unilever “appears to have engaged in boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel that may require Unilever PLC on the list of companies or institutions that affected State entities are required to divest from,” New York State's Office of General Services wrote in an official warning letter to Unilever. A similar letter was also sent to Ben & Jerry's, which belongs to the Unilever group.

After a 90-day notice period, all the state's government agencies and departments will have to halt or withdraw their investments in the two companies, in accordance with an executive order that bans government business with any company boycotting Israel either directly or through a subsidiary.

The executive order was signed in 2016 by former Governor Andrew Cuomo and renewed by Governor Kathy Hochul upon taking office in August. New York state has divested from eleven companies since the order entered into force.

Ben & Jerry's announced this July it would stop selling its products in the West Bank because working in occupied territory “is inconsistent with our values,” referring to the sale of products in Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.

"We have a longstanding partnership with our [Israeli] licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry's ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region," a Ben & Jerry's statement at the time said. "We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year."

In a later interview, the company’s founders said they plan to continue selling ice cream within Israel’s 1948 borders.

Thirty-five states in the United States have adopted laws or executive orders designed to discourage the boycott of Israel. Eight of them have halted, withdrawn or will withdraw investments in Unilever following Ben & Jerry’s decision to halt the sale of its products in the occupied West Bank this summer. Arizona and New Jersey have already divested all of their funds from Unilever.