Dr Mike Evans

New Jersey rules Ben & Jerry’s Israel boycott is against state law

The New Jersey Department of Treasury announced on Tuesday that ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Israel violates state law that opposes BDS.

“Following the letter and spirit of the law, the State of New Jersey’s Division of Investment, working with its independent consultant, ISS, conducted a review of the actions of Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, to determine whether such actions constituted a boycott of Israel or companies operating in Israel or Israeli-controlled territory,” the division said in a statement.

“Following this review, the 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. 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,” the statement added.

The state joins Arizona in responding to Ben & Jerry’s over its efforts to stop sales in Judea and Samaria, aka the West Bank, based on antisemitic BDS policy. Despite growing antisemitic incidents in the US in 2020, eight states have anti-BDS laws to oppose such efforts.

Many states that have passed anti-BDS laws have taken few efforts to enforce them. This latest effort by New Jersey signals the anti-BDS legislation is more than words, but may result in direct action against a company in violation.

More than 546,000 Jews live in New Jersey, comprising the highest percentage of Jewish Americans of any state, with 6.1 percent of the population. The high percentage of Jewish Americans has led to strong legislation opposing BDS efforts.

Pro-Israel supporters across the US have strongly opposed the Ben & Jerry’s move, but have had few options to push back against the company. States like New Jersey and Arizona that have initiated legal reviews to the action are leading the way to combat antisemitism in the US. They are an example other states can follow.