Bill to ban state pension fund from owning Unilever, over Ben & Jerry’s Israel stance

Representative Carter Nordman

A bill to bar the state-run pension fund from holding stock in ice cream parent company Ben & Jerry’s has been approved by the Iowa House and is tentatively set to be debated in the Senate today.

In July, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s announced that their ice cream would no longer be sold in disputed territories in Israel. Rep. Carter Nordman, a Republican from Adel, was the House leader of the bill. “The sole purpose of the ‘Boycott Israel’ movement is to economically destroy and cripple the State of Israel,” Nordman said during the House debate on the bill.

According to Nordman, 38 other states have taken similar steps to ban public pension funds from owning Unilever stock. The company bought Ben & Jerry’s two decades ago, but agreed to continue the ice cream company’s social missions. “This bill will ensure that our public investments do not fund companies that participate in the boycott, divestment and sanction of the Israeli movement,” Nordman said.

Representative Mary Wolfe, a Clinton Democrat, said the Ben & Jerry’s founders “respectfully disagree” with Israeli policy.

“This bill is…to intimidate a company, a small American company that is owned by a British company for choosing to refuse to participate in what they feel and what the UN has declared to be a illegal occupation of Palestinian territory,” Wolfe said.

In September, pension funds in New Jersey and Arizona sold $325 million worth of Unilever stock. In December, Illinois pension fund managers voted to divest from Unilever.

Unilever is based in London and has 400 different brands, including Hellman’s Mayonnaise, Ax body spray and Q-Tips.

Dolores W. Simon