Another state pulls retirement funds from Ben & Jerry’s over Israel boycott

North Carolina joined a growing list of states that are opting to pull retirement funds from Ben & Jerry’s over its boycott of Israel.

Arizona, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas have already made the move, and North Carolina joined the tide against the Vermont-based ice cream company which announced in 2021 it was suspending sales in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” because “it is inconsistent with our values.”

“We are where we are. We don’t pick which laws to apply and who to apply them to,” Dale Folwell, the North Carolina State Treasurer, told Fox Business. “I wish I never heard of this subject and wish we didn’t have to do what we had to do.”

“Folwell announced last month that the North Carolina Retirement Systems — which provides retirement benefits for more than 1 million members, including teachers, firefighters, police officers and government employees — is withdrawing $40 million from Ben & Jerry’s and affiliates. This includes its parent company, Unilever PLC, a U.K.-based company,” the outlet reported.

In the spread of the boycott, divest and sanction movement (BDS), the North Carolina legislature passed a 2017 law banning “the North Carolina Retirement Systems or the Department of State Treasurer from investing in any company engaged in a boycott of Israel.”

“I don’t know the people at Ben & Jerry’s. I respect their entrepreneurship. I think when they signed the contract, Ben & Jerry’s anticipated something like this,” said Folwell, a Republican gubernatorial candidate. “Unilever didn’t anticipate anything like this. Generally, when a parent tells a kid not to do something, they expect them to listen.”

He also indicated that efforts to reach out to Unilever were unsuccessful before the decision was made to divest the funds.

In a June 2022 press release, Unilever explained its decision to sell Ben & Jerry’s operations in Israel.

“The new business arrangement follows a Unilever review of Ben & Jerry’s in Israel after the brand and its independent Board announced last year its decision to discontinue sales of its ice cream in the West Bank,” the company said. “Unilever rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance. Antisemitism has no place in any society.”

Frieda Powers

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