Among those urging Mr. DiNapoli to divest is the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative, nonprofit good-governance group in Washington that is known for digging up ethics violations on largely liberal targets. The group has also filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service about how the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation has used its funds.
“We are doing this because somebody has to hold the independent board of Ben & Jerry’s accountable for their anti-Semitic use of their platform and company resources,” said Tom Anderson, a director of the National Legal and Policy Center.
A spokesman for Mr. DiNapoli said on Thursday afternoon that the office had not received a letter from the group. New York’s state pension fund had about $118 million invested in Unilever, the spokesman said.
Mr. Jope has tried to ease tensions over the matter. In late July, he sent a letter to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to express the company’s opposition to “any form of discrimination or intolerance.”
Mr. Jope also addressed the complex relationship between Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s. After Unilever bought the company in 2000, Ben & Jerry’s retained its own board of directors. That board has the right to “take decisions in accordance with its social mission,” Mr. Jope wrote.
Ben & Jerry’s, which Mr. Cohen and Mr. Greenfield started in Vermont in the 1970s, has always promoted a progressive worldview, exemplified by tie-dyed T-shirts and ice-cream bars called Peace Pops. The founders are no longer on the four-member board, but its chair, Anuradha Mittal, says her role includes ensuring that Ben & Jerry’s sets standards for other companies.
A spokesman for Ben & Jerry’s, Sean Greenwood, declined to comment on New Jersey’s decision.
State Senator Tom Kean, a Republican, said the move demonstrated the success of the 2016 law he co-sponsored with State Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat. The law prohibits public investments in companies that engage in boycotts, divestment or sanctions of Israel.