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November 11, 2021 12:34 pm

NYC Mayor De Blasio Tells Unilever: ‘Invest in Israel’ to Counter Boycott Movement


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Kevin Case via Flickr

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Unilever should demonstrate its opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by investing in Israel after its subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s, said it will stop selling its ice cream in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

De Blasio was asked by a Hamodia reporter at a Wednesday press conference about his position on New York divesting from Unilever, after State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced that he would pull the state’s $111 million in equity investments out the conglomerate over Ben & Jerry’s decision.

The mayor believes “there’s a solution still possible that would be better and ideal” than divesting from Unilever, and said the company “should get one more chance to put their money where their mouth is, and announce investments they will make for Israelis and Palestinians, to help move forward the peace process, which really will have a huge economic component.”

If Unilever makes such investments, the mayor said, he would be less inclined support city pension funds divesting their holdings in the company.

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The outgoing mayor, whose second and final term ends on Dec. 31, will be succeeded by Eric Adams.

“If we’re going to have peace, it will be, I think, 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,” he explained. “If they make that kind of commitment, I’d be very receptive. If they refuse, then divestment becomes a much more necessary option.”

Unilever CEO Alan Jope previously said that his company does not support the BDS movement and has “no intention of changing that position.” De Blasio shared a message to Unilever at the press conference and said, “Don’t just say you’re against BDS, do something about it, invest in Israel. That’s what I’ll push. If they refuse, then again, that divestment tool becomes a necessary option.”

De Blasio noted that the BDS movement “undermines the possibilities of peace for Israelis and Palestinians” and said, “anyone who wants to see a peace process actually work should oppose BDS. Anyone who believes in the State of Israel and its historic place in the world should oppose BDS.”

Outgoing New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has faced calls to follow DiNapoli’s lead by pulling the city’s $187 million pension fund investments from Unilever. Comptroller-elect Brad Lander, who will take office in January, said in July that he supports the Ben & Jerry’s decision on Israel, and that he disagrees with divesting New York funds from Unilever.

At the press conference, de Blasio was also asked if he felt a sense of urgency to take action on the Unilever matter before his term ends. The mayor responded, “I think it’s a good time to push Unilever, to put pressure on them to invest in Israel, to invest in Israelis and Palestinians alike, for the good of everyone in the region, and the good of the peace process.”

“I think they’re feeling tremendous pressure,” he added. “Now, the demand should be [to] invest — the opposite of BDS. BDS takes money away from the people of a region that desperately needs investment and peace and economic progress. I think we should all use this as a moment, and I feel urgency about it, and I’ll put my voice in and I’ll talk to Unilever about it: Make a commitment to invest in Israel. Move us forward. Take a positive stance.”

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