(September 15, 2021 / JNS) New Jersey is poised to become the latest state to divest from the British Unilever company over Ben & Jerry’s decision this summer to boycott selling its products in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem.
In a Sept. 2 letter addressed to Unilever CEO Alan Jope, New Jersey’s director of the Division of Investment (DOI) Shoaib Khan said the state has reached a preliminary conclusion that the company violated the state’s 2016 anti-boycott law, which prohibits New Jersey from doing business with companies that boycott the State of Israel.
While it’s not immediately clear of the number of Unilever assets that New Jersey currently holds, the state has a $90 billion pension fund. New Jersey is giving Unilever 90 days to appeal the findings before the state government formally goes ahead with the decision to divest.
“[T]he 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 in a Sept. 14 statement. “Upon final determination, 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.”
Earlier this week, Arizona announced that it has begun divesting from Unilever in accordance with its own state anti-BDS laws, becoming the first state to move ahead with a boycott.
Jewish organizations praised the move by the state government.
“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,” said a joint statement from the Jewish Federations of New Jersey.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also applauded the move, saying “we again call on Unilever, whose North American headquarters is located in New Jersey, to exercise its contractual right to overrule the discriminatory decision of the board of its Ben & Jerry’s subsidiary.”
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