Following reports last week that Texas and Florida are considering divesting from Unilever due to Ben & Jerry’s boycott against Israel, the states of New York, New Jersey and Illinois are also examining the issue.
Out of the 35 states that have anti-BDS laws, 21 include boycotts of Yehudah and Shomron, and 12 out of the 21 have laws mandating the removal of companies that participate in boycotts from state employee retirement investment funds, JTA reported.
The report added that according to experts, removal from state employee retirement investment funds is far more damaging than merely boycotting companies’ goods and services.
In New York, Liz Gordon, the executive director of Corporate Governance for the New York State Common Retirement Fund, sent a letter to Unilever saying that the state is “troubled and concerned about reports suggesting that Ben & Jerry’s, a Unilever wholly-owned subsidiary, is involved in BDS activities.”
“This letter serves as notice that the Fund intends to include Unilever on our list of companies participating in BDS activity if these reports are correct.”
Although New York has not legislated any BDS laws, in 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order banning state business with companies engaging in BDS, including investment funds.
The law in Illinois mandates that state employee retirement funds divest from companies that engage in BDS, including boycotts of Yehudah and Shomron.
Daniel Goldwin, the executive director of public affairs at Chicago’s Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Illinois Investment Policy Board wrote to Unilever, giving them 90 days to “explain why their reported actions are not a violation of Illinois law.”
“At the next quarterly meeting, the board will review the company’s response and/or invite them to testify and answer questions,” Goldwin said. “Then, if it’s determined that state pension divestment is warranted, the actual divestment will occur in a ‘timely way that does not lead to a material loss of value.”
New Jersey law also mandates that state employee retirement funds divest from companies engaging in BDS, including companies that boycott Yehudah and Shomron.
An official in the State Treasurer’s office quoted by the Jewish Insider said: “The Division of Investment is aware of the situation and is working to determine whether any actions must be taken to ensure continued compliance with the State’s anti-BDS law.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)