July 26, 2021

Double Standards?

Linda Scherzer JCRC Director

Is Ben & Jerry’s, and its parent company, Unilever, in violation of NJ’s anti-BDS law? 

That’s what the Jewish Federations of New Jersey want to know. In letters signed by Dov Ben-Shimon, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and four other NJ Federation executives, the Governor and the Acting Director of the State Department of Investment are being asked to investigate, in a first-ever test case in the State of New Jersey, whether the decision to pull Ben & Jerry’s ice cream out of the West Bank constitutes a breach of law. 

This action follows Ben & Jerry’s statement, issued on their website on July 19, that they would stop selling ice cream in the West Bank, a move that resulted in at least five states with anti-BDS law to consider issuing sanctions. A total of 34 states, including New Jersey, require their governments to stop doing business with companies that boycott Israel. Of those, 21 states include West Bank settlements in their definition. 

Rather than invest in programs which promote dialogue and bring Israelis and Palestinians together, Ben and Jerry’s has aligned itself with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement,” said CEO Dov Ben-Shimon. “In our view, boycotts do not promote peace, trust-building, or mutual understanding. All this action accomplished was creating rancor, division, and the perception that Ben & Jerry’s is employing double standards, assigning blame to only one side of this conflict. There’s a law that was enacted five years ago in the State of New Jersey that’s never been tested. We’ve asked the governor to investigate whether any actions must be taken to ensure compliance with the state’s anti-BDS law.” 

New Jersey’s law, adopted in 2016, requires that state pension funds divest from pro-boycott businesses, including companies which only boycott Israeli settlements. On Friday, a spokeswoman for the state treasury said that the Division of Investments is aware of the situation and is investigating. The governor expressed disappointment with the Ben and Jerry’s decision, adding that boycotts do not promote peace and dialogue. 

Click here to read the Jewish Federations’ letter to Governor Murphy. A nearly identical letter was sent to Shoaib Khan, Acting Director, New Jersey Department of Treasury, Division of Investment.