NYC Comptroller Claims to Oppose BDS, but Stalls on Divesting City’s Pension from Unilever

NYC Comptroller Claims to Oppose BDS, but Stalls on Divesting City’s Pension from Unilever

By Yehudit Garmaise

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer continues to remain vague on whether he will divest from Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, which announced last summer that it would refuse to sell its ice cream in the Israeli areas of Yehudah, Shomron, and eastern Yerushalayim, which the Jewish-owned company called “occupied Palestinian territory.”

On Oct. 28, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said he would divest the state’s $263 million Common Retirement Fund from Unilever, which violated his office’s policy against the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement against Israel.

New York state’s pension fund, which is the nation’s third-largest, invests more than $800 million in retirement funds in Israel: making New York of the largest states to divest from Unilever due to Ben & Jerry’s boycott.

Stringer has waited three and a half months after Ben & Jerry’s announcement, and when he finally did so, he was characteristically unclear whether his allegiances lie on an issue that is important to many Yidden.

Last April, for instance, when Stringer was running in the Democratic mayoral primary, BoroPark24 asked the comptroller what the Jewish community could expect from him, were he to be elected mayor, on the issues of yeshiva education and metzitzah b’peh, he gave unusually vague answers about how he would “work with the community.”

In Stringer’s recent statement about what he intends to do with the $189.8 million the city currently has invested in Unilever securities, he likewise obfuscated when he said that while he opposes the BDS movement, he cannot unilaterally divest: a claim that many doubt, now that the comptroller seems to have joined forces with the far-left wing of the city’s Democratic party: many of whose candidates he has endorsed.

“The comptroller is trying to have it both ways, by claiming to oppose BDS and, at the same time, refusing to divest our holdings in companies that engage in BDS,” City Councilman Kalman Yeger told Hamodia. “No one is fooled.”

In recent months, while Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he would no longer eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, instead of pushing for divestment or calling on Stringer to do so, the mayor has advocated trying to persuade Unilever to disallow Ben & Jerry’s boycott, which Unilever has recently written in a letter to Comptroller DiNapoli, that the parent company would not do. 

“I think there is a solution still possible that would be ideal and is better [than divestment],” the mayor said on Wednesday. “But if there is no willingness on Unilever’s part that is a different discussion.”

But because Unilever also says that it opposes BDS, which the mayor does as well, he continues propose other alternatives to divestment. 

Before New York City divests, the mayor said that Unilever should get "one more chance" to show they actually do oppose BDS and support Israel by investing in the country in ways that would help both Israelis and Palestinians.

“If we are going to have peace, it will come, largely, through addressing a lot of the underlying economic challenges for everyone in the area, and international companies investing more in Israel is part of the answer," said the mayor, however, time is short, as Comptroller-Elect Brad Lander, who supports Ben & Jerry's boycott of the Israeli areas, has said that he would not divest city funds from Unilever.

“If they make that kind of commitment, I would be very receptive," the mayor said. "If they refuse, then divestment becomes a much more necessary option.”

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