Lander Praises Ben & Jerry’s, Stringer Silent, de Blasio Hoping for ‘Positive Outcome’

new york divest ben & jerry's
Democratic candidate for NYC comptroller Brad Lander. (via twitter)

New York City Councilman Brad Lander, who is the presumed next city Comptroller after winning the Democratic nomination, has pledged his support for Ben & Jerry’s decision to no longer sell its products in Yehudah, Shomron and eastern Yerushalayim, indicating he would not be divesting from parent company Unilever. The current comptroller, Scott Stringer, has been silent on the matter. Mayor Bill de Blasio has criticized Ben & Jerry’s, but declined to call on Stringer to divest, saying he wanted to ‘see the issue get resolved’ with ‘a positive outcome’ and not divestment.

In a statement last week, Lander said, “As a Jewish New Yorker who cares about the wellbeing of both Israelis and Palestinians, I support Ben & Jerry’s decision … Ending Israel’s military occupation is a moral imperative … Companies that decide not to operate in the settlements do not pose a risk to New York’s pension funds. If anything, continuation of the occupation poses grave ongoing risks to Palestinians, Israelis, and to those who care about them.”

Israel supporters blasted Lander’s statement.

“Councilman Lander’s sick and twisted ideology has him again siding with antisemites,” Councilman Kalman Yeger told Hamodia. “This has been true throughout his time in the Council, and it sadly appears that he will continue on this hateful path in his next position. He has shown more concern for murderers and terrorists than he has for the innocent. Always has.”

Scott Stringer, the outgoing comptroller, has in the past opposed the BDS movement, but he has not said anything publicly about the matter since Ben & Jerry’s’ July 19 announcement.

In a letter to Stringer last week, Councilman Eric Dinowitz wrote, “BDS seeks to delegitimize and damage Israel, and is linked to the spread of anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence.” Dinowitz went on to say that Stringer has “an obligation to review the actions of Ben & Jerry’s and that of Unilever to determine if they are in violation of New York City law, and ensure that if they are participating in the BDS movement, our City’s agencies are complying with the City Administrative Code §6-114, which prohibits city contractors, and substantially owned affiliate companies, from participating in international boycotts.”

new york divest ben & jerry's
Comptroller Scott Stringer (Susan Watts/Office of Comptroller Stringer/File)

Stringer has not commented on the Dinowitz letter, and his press team has not responded to multiple queries by Hamodia as to whether Stringer would be taking any action against Unilever.

Lander has in the past also opposed the BDS movement, but was endorsed in his recent comptroller race by supporters of Palestinians including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman.

In his statement, Lander criticized the state comptroller’s office, which has indicated New York’s retirement fund may divest from Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever.

“Actions that erase the distinction between Israel and its settlements in occupied territory,” Lander said, “are effectively endorsing annexation and today’s unjust one-state status quo.”

new york divest ben & jerry's
Mayor Bill de Blasio at a virtual press conference in the Bronx, Thursday. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

Liz Gordon, Executive Director of Corporate Governance for the New York State Common Retirement Fund in the New York State Comptroller’s Office, had sent a letter to Unilever CEO Alan Jope stating that Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is “troubled and concerned about reports suggesting that Ben & Jerry’s, a Unilever wholly owned subsidiary, is involved in BDS activities,” and that “pursuant to the requirements of the Fund’s policy, this letter serves as notice that the Fund intends to include Unilever on our list of companies participating in BDS activity if these reports are correct.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed his personal disappointment with the ice cream brand’s decision, saying he “will not be eating any more Cherry Garcia for a while,” a reference to a Ben & Jerry’s flavor, but did not answer directly when asked Thursday by a Hamodia reporter if he wanted city to see Stringer to divest from Unilever.

“I’d like to see them fix the problem,” he said. “I think that the best outcome using economic pressure is to get a positive result, so I’d like to see the issue get resolved and that it be very clear that that corporation is not supporting BDS.”

“I’m calling for Unilever to fix the situation and act differently and affirm they will not support BDS, to support economic growth in the region, which is the pathway to peace. That’s what I’d like to see. I want a positive outcome. I don’t want to see divestment, we can see a positive outcome and I want to believe, with the amount of pressure happening now, we can get to a positive outcome here.”


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