Some footnotes for the Conference of Presidents statement on divestment

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By Claire Davidson Miller

Last Friday, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement applauding Arizona’s divestment from Unilever, the company that owns the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand. While Americans for Peace Now, for which I serve as strategic communications and development associate, is a member of the Conference of Presidents, we often disagree with statements that its leaders issue. In fact, member organizations of this umbrella group are typically not consulted before such statements are published. That often results in misstatements. Below is the statement on Ben & Jerry’s and some suggested edits.


Conference of Presidents 1 Applauds Arizona’s Divestment From Unilever

SEP. 10TH, 2021 . . . NEW YORK, NY. . . Dianne Lob, Chair, William Daroff, CEO, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued the following statement:

https://www.washingtonjewishweek.com/enewsletter/

“We salute the State of Arizona and, particularly, State Treasurer Kimberly Yee, who announced that the state will divest from all investments in the multinational corporation Unilever 2, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s. This action was taken in response to Ben & Jerry’s decision to cease operations with its Israeli licensee because they refused to engage in a boycott of the communities in the West Bank area 3. Arizona had already reduced its investment in June from $143 million to $50 million and by the end of the month will have divested completely. Arizona is one of thirty-three states that took action penalizing companies that engage in a boycott of Israel 4. We encourage other states to follow the example of Arizona and take similar actions.

We remain deeply disappointed that Unilever, a company with a long-standing presence in Israel, will not overturn the discriminatory 5 action by its Ben & Jerry’s subsidiary. The majority of American states recognize that boycotting Israel 6 is not only discriminatory activity, it’s also bad for business and negatively impacts Israelis, as well as Palestinians 7.”


The Conference of Presidents is the central coordinating body representing 50 national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern.

Notes

1 Misleading: If you read the first sentence of the statement, it becomes clear that the letter is actually from three people: the Chair, CEO and Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents. It is not cosigned by any of the 50 member organizations.

2 Confusing: You are celebrating Arizona’s divestment, but in the past, when the
same tactic was used to protest Israel’s West Bank occupation, you denounced it as “economic warfare.”

3 Oversight: You forgot to mention that those “communities in the West Bank area” are settlements that are illegal under international law.

4 Fact Check: The Occupied Territories are not Israel.

5 Typo: Did you mean “principled?”

6 Fact Check: The Occupied Territories still aren’t Israel.

7 Unsubstantiated Claim: Please explain why this is the case. Seems to us that ethical
business and striving for justice would positively impact both Israelis and Palestinians.

Claire Davidson Miller is strategic communications and development associate for
Americans for Peace Now.

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