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Democratic nominee for NYC comptroller says he supports Ben & Jerry’s West Bank ban

Brad Lander, the Democratic nominee for New York City comptroller, on Monday criticized the state comptroller office’s moves against Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, over the ice cream makers decision to end sales in the occupied West Bank.

In a letter sent to Unilever’s CEO on Friday, Liz Gordon, executive director of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, said the office will examine whether Ben & Jerry’s violated the state’s policy of prohibiting investments in companies involved in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

Lander objected.

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

In 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the nation’s first executive order directing state agencies to divest themselves of companies that engage in “boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel, either directly or through a parent or subsidiary.”

Several kosher markets in New York and elsewhere have decided to drop the product. Gristede’s Supermarket, a New York City-based grocery store chain, said it will reduce the amount of shelf space it dedicates to Ben & Jerry’s products following the ice cream company’s boycott of Israeli settlements. The governor has yet to comment on whether he supports action against Unilever.

City pension fund investments in bonds — foreign and domestic — are among the comptroller’s responsibilities. Lander, who is the favorite to succeed Scott Stringer as the city’s most senior Jewish elected official in January, said that as somebody who cares about the wellbeing of both Israelis and Palestinians, he supports Ben & Jerry’s decision because ending the occupation “is a moral imperative” in accordance with the two-state solution.

Lander, a member of the Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives, a progressive synagogue in Brooklyn, won last month’s Democratic primary with the backing of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who have been critical of Israel’s stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Lander told the Forward earlier this year that he does not support BDS.

“Companies that decide not to operate in the settlements do not pose a risk to New York’s pension funds,” Lander said in the statement. “If anything, continuation of the occupation poses grave ongoing risks to Palestinians, to Israelis, and to those who care about them.”

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