Due to the pro-Israel backlash about Ben & Jerry’s announced decision to stop selling ice cream in the West Bank/area east of the Green Line (EGL), the two founders penned an opinion piece in the liberal opinion paper, The New York Times on July 29, 2021. Here is a review.
Ben & Jerry comment: “We are the founders of Ben & Jerry’s. We are also proud Jews. It’s part of who we are and how we’ve identified ourselves for our whole lives. As our company began to expand internationally, Israel was one of our first overseas markets. We were then, and remain today, supporters of the State of Israel.“
FirstOneThrough review: Sounds reasonable. The duo is asserting that they are proud to be both Jewish and supporters of Israel so everything that follows must be read in that light. Meaning, this is what they want readers to believe are opinions of pro-Israel Jews.
B&J: “But it’s possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies, just as we’ve opposed policies of the U.S. government. As such, we unequivocally support the decision of the company to end business in the occupied territories, which a majority of the international community, including the United Nations, has deemed an illegal occupation.“
FOT: B&J say they oppose lots of U.S. policies BUT THEY STILL SELLS ICE CREAM IN THE US. Double-standards, anyone? Further, while it is true that “a majority of the international community” views Israeli Jews living in EGL as “Illegal,” it’s also a fact that most of the world considers homosexuality to be illegal. Are B&J really going to use international standards to decide what is a progressive value?
B&J: “While we no longer have any operational control of the company we founded in 1978, we’re proud of its action and believe it is on the right side of history. In our view, ending the sales of ice cream in the occupied territories is one of the most important decisions the company has made in its 43-year history. It was especially brave of the company. Even though it undoubtedly knew that the response would be swift and powerful, Ben & Jerry’s took the step to align its business and operations with its progressive values.“
FOT: Progressives say that climate change is the most important issue of our lifetimes and B&J proudly supports environmental issues. Yet these two men proclaimed that boycotting the West Bank because Israel has held off annexing it, in the hope of trading some of it for an enduring peace with local Arabs is “one of the most important decisions the company has made.” I guess B&J’s long list of progressive issues really aren’t that important.
B&J: “That we support the company’s decision is not a contradiction nor is it anti-Semitic. In fact, we believe this act can and should be seen as advancing the concepts of justice and human rights, core tenets of Judaism.“
FOT: In what orbit is objecting to Jews living and praying somewhere – let alone in their holy land – advancing human rights, and not anti-Semitic? B&J should re-read the bible to understand that the land of Israel is a core tenet of Judaism.
B&J: “Ben & Jerry’s is a company that advocates peace. It has long called on Congress to reduce the U.S. military budget. Ben & Jerry’s opposed the Persian Gulf war of 1991. But it wasn’t just talk. One of our very first social-mission initiatives, in 1988, was to introduce the Peace Pop. It was part of an effort to promote the idea of redirecting 1 percent of national defense budgets around the world to fund peace-promoting activities. We see the company’s recent action as part of a similar trajectory — not as anti-Israel, but as part of a long history of being pro-peace.“
FOT: The company opposed US wars but still sells ice cream throughout the United States, but uniquely decided to boycott the West Bank. This is not consistent at all. A parallel move would be to sell a new ice cream flavor – maybe with halavah and dates called “Abraham’s Twins” – and to donate part of the proceeds to schools and organizations that promote peace and coexistence.
B&J: “In its statement, the company drew a contrast between the democratic territory of Israel and the territories Israel occupies. The decision to halt sales outside Israel’s democratic borders is not a boycott of Israel. The Ben & Jerry’s statement did not endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.“
FOT: As the two surely know, the issued statement was not approved by its independent board, which did not include the statement about Israel. The last sentence was inserted by Unilever as the board actually wanted a boycott of all of Israel.
B&J: “The company’s stated decision to more fully align its operations with its values is not a rejection of Israel. It is a rejection of Israeli policy, which perpetuates an illegal occupation that is a barrier to peace and violates the basic human rights of the Palestinian people who live under the occupation. As Jewish supporters of the State of Israel, we fundamentally reject the notion that it is anti-Semitic to question the policies of the State of Israel.“
FOT: It is not “anti-Semitic to question the policies of the State of Israel,” but it is anti-Semitic to boycott the State of Israel in a complete double standard. The company does not boycott the US where it objects to many policies nor does it boycott China, Turkey, Morocco, India, Pakistan, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan or many other countries which have disputed territory. The “perpetuation” of the Arab-Israeli dispute is because the Palestinians have rejected Israeli offers time and again, not because Israel never made any offers to make peace.
B&J: “When we left the helm of the company, we signed a unique governance structure in the acquisition agreement with Unilever back in 2000. That structure is the magic behind both Ben & Jerry’s continued independence and its success. As part of the agreement, the company retained an independent board of directors with a responsibility to protect the company’s essential brand integrity and to pursue its social mission.“
FOT: Anti-Semitism is not a “social mission” and the boycott of Israel is illegal in many jurisdictions so the board acted outside of its authority. Will this board that advocates for “defunding the police” stop selling ice cream in cities that don’t slash police budgets? The board is in favor of expanding voting rights so will it get engaged in vote harvesting which is considered illegal in many states? Being in favor of peace means promoting peace through legal activities. The board is not advancing peace and taking illegal actions.
B&J: “We believe business is among the most powerful entities in society. We believe that companies have a responsibility to use their power and influence to advance the wider common good. Over the years, we’ve also come to believe that there is a spiritual aspect to business, just as there is to the lives of individuals. As you give, you receive. We hope that for Ben & Jerry’s, that is at the heart of the business. To us, that’s what this decision represents, and that is why we are proud that 43 years after starting an ice cream shop in a dilapidated gas station in Burlington, Vt., our names are still on the package.“
FOT: The piece ends as it began with innocuous statements that have nothing to do with the insidious actions taken by the board.
Progressive Jews like Ben & Jerry have endorsed Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism which calls for the destruction of Israel, to have a legal pathway to nuclear weapons, and wants that Islamic State to be able to freely ship such weaponry to Hamas in an un-blockaded Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. It should therefore not surprise anyone that the far-left would stop selling ice cream to Israelis in bomb shelters.
Ben & Jerry are boycotting the Old City of Jerusalem, the holiest location for Jews, while they preach that they are both proud Jews and supporters of Israel who are taking action to advance a core tenet of Judaism. The two may not only be guilty of double standards, but lack a basic understanding of Judaism, as they encourage the whole world to engage in the BDS movement to rid the holy city of Jewish presence once more.
When Donald Trump pushed an executive order (EO) to limit the entry into the United States of people from a few countries who were deemed to have poor border controls and many terrorists, the Democratic Party called it a “Muslim ban,” even though the order still allowed people from over forty Muslim-majority countries to enter the US. The Democratic cheerleaders in the mainstream media picked up the phrase and each used it to advance the narrative of Trump as a racist and “Islamophobe.” It wasn’t hard to do, as Trump frequently attacked various minority groups and Islam in other situations.
But the phrase “Muslim ban” made no sense in regards to the actual EO which continued to allow in people from Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim war-torn countries beset by terrorism.
In sharp contrast, the media refuses to call the global effort for a boycott, sanctions and divestment from Israel (BDS) campaign, a “Jewish ban,” even though it is explicitly that on many levels.
The BDS movement is economic warfare against the only Jewish state and does not target any other country involved in a dispute over land, of which there are many. The effort is to refuse selling products or services to Israel and also to refuse buying such from the country. It attempts to block any speakers, professors, exchange students, sporting teams and athletes, as well as to push investment funds to not invest in any Israeli companies. A variant of the BDS movement only seeks to impose those restrictions against the Israeli territory of Area C in the area east of the Green Line (EGL)/ the West Bank.
The rationale behind this effort is not to protect citizens like Trump’s EO, but to punish Israel for not annexing the West Bank, which Israel has held off doing in the hopes of trading some of the land for an enduring peace with Palestinian Arabs. Israel already gave the Palestinians the entirety of the Gaza Strip and land in the West Bank which is home to 86% of the Palestinian population. The Jewish State has offered more land in various initiatives but each proposal was rejected as insufficient by the Palestinian Authority.
BDS supporters are not interested in a negotiation between the parties but full Israeli capitulation to Palestinian demands.
In the interim, BDS supporters want to enforce a number of additional Jewish bans beyond those listed above. They want to ban Jews from living, working or visiting the West Bank and the eastern part of Jerusalem. They want to bar Jews from praying at their holiest site of the Jewish Temple Mount. They want Jews to abandon their second holiest location in Hebron and the Tomb of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs to sole Muslim control.
As part of the effort, they will deny Jewish history in the holy land and engage in Holocaust denial. They will attempt to alter Arab history by declaring that Jesus was a Palestinian rather than a Jew and instead of acknowledging that Arabs invaded the holy land in the 7th century, claim that Palestinians are descendants of Canaanites and Jebusites in a comic attempt to pre-date Jews. They will further attempt to smear Jews as “colonialists” engaging in “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing” as a core message of their campaign, in sharp contrast to reality.
The so called-“Muslim ban” was solely placed on people coming from a few countries and did not persecute citizens from those lands nor Muslims generally in the US. Not so for the BDS movement, which attacks the Jewish State and Jews globally.
When the United States placed sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, it did so because the leading state sponsor of terrorism was attempting to build nuclear weapons, a matter of global security concern. When the US put limits on the ability of China to own and operate communications infrastructure, it did so because of national security concerns.
But the BDS movement is not about protecting local or global interests. It is not even about being pro-Arabs-thousands-of-miles-away who have a better situation in Israel and Area C than Arabs in all of the surrounding countries. Those Arabs in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Iraq and elsewhere get no support from the BDS’ers, because BDS’ers aren’t pro-Arab but anti-Jew. They believe that a Jew controlling Arab land or people offends Muslim sensibilities and denies their dignity.
BDS is a movement against the Jewish State, Jews living in the holy land and Jews around the world. It is a “multipronged Jewish ban and jihad,” and should be clearly labeled as such.
There is an emerging fight going on about Ben & Jerry’s sudden decision to stop selling ice cream in what it calls the “occupied Palestinian territories.” One side has called it anti-Semitic while the other defends the company and its parent, Unilever, from the charge stating that not deciding to sell a product in the OPT but continuing to do so in Israel cannot be called anti-Semitic as it differentiates between Israel and the West Bank/ Judea and Samaria.
While this sounds like a niche and irrelevant subject – about selling ice cream! – the discussion and decisions made on this topic are important for the broader review of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. As dissected and reviewed below, the Ben & Jerry’s board engaged in a boycott of the West Bank (and likely Israel) in concert with its far-left progressive followers but likely outside of its agreement with Unilever. Other companies will be taking note of the fallout.
The Ben & Jerry’s Boardand Mission
B&J was acquired by Unilever in 2000 with a clause in the purchase agreement that allows the ice cream maker to retain its own independent board to preserve “Ben & Jerry’s social mission, brand integrity and product quality, by providing social mission-mindful insight and guidance to ensure we’re making the best ice cream possible in the best way possible.” The term “social mission” is a progressive catch-all that covers a wide range of activities. The three primary categories of values detailed on the company’s website are “human rights and dignity,” “social and economic justice” and “environmental protection.” The company pursues each of these items through a progressive lens which directs the company to use capitalism to the benefit of all, to protect the environment as best it can, and “support nonviolent ways to achieve peace and justice.”
These are clear and worthwhile missions for the company and within its rights to run a company as it sees fit. But any company working with a mission statement as its guide – and Ben & Jerry’s in particular, as this independent board takes actions BASED on the clause in its acquisition agreement that it can pursue its “social mission” – cannot do anything that it wants and just claim it as a “social mission.” Some important criteria to review:
is there really a social mission behind the action
is the action being taken an internal or external concern to the company
is the action itself legal and moral
While B&J was acquired with the proviso that it’s social mission is at the discretion of its independent board, these questions are critical for Unilever to review as to whether the board acted within its rights to boycott the OPT.
The Board Boycott and Intent
Before delving into each of these points, it is important to review what was and wasn’t said by B&J.
On July 19, 2021, B&J issued a statement which read:
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.
We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year.
Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready.”
The statement makes clear that its “values” make it difficult to see its product in the “OPT.” It differentiates the OPT from Israel and states in the last line that it will continue to sell ice cream in Israel.
But the B&J board never authorized the last sentencethat it will remain in Israel. The board subsequently released a statement that “The statement released by Ben & Jerry’s regarding its operation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (the OPT) does not reflect the position of the independent board, nor was it approved by the independent board.” The sentence was added solely by Unilever without B&J knowledge. The chair of the B&J board, Anuradha Mittal, was incensed by the statement that the ice cream will continue to be sold in Israel and said “I am saddened by the deceit of it. This is not about Israel; it is about the violation of the acquisition agreement that maintained the soul of the company. I can’t stop thinking that this is what happens when you have a board with all women and people of color who have been pushing to do the right thing.“
Mittal specifically wanted no mention of Israel in its statement, just that it is boycotting the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” presumably meaning the area east of the Green Line (EGL). She seemed poised to rally minorities to her defense describing her situation as pitting “women and people of color” against a conglomerate, deflecting the conversation from her values and actions.
B&J’s website showcases its board members and notes that Mittal’s primary social cause is “Land and Indigenous Rights.” Her resume led with a note that she is “founder and executive director of the Oakland Institute, is an internationally renowned expert on development, human rights, and agriculture issues.“
The Oakland Institute website covers a number of topics including “Palestine.” It refers to “research” published by Mittal on “Palestinian resistance & resilience 70 years after the Nakba & 100 years after the Balfour Declaration.” It includes a map regarding places of such “resistance” which includes areas in Israel.
Mittal’s references to the “Nakba” in 1948 and Balfour Declaration in 1917 (each well before there was a land called the “West Bank” in 1967) are part-and-parcel of her objection to the inclusion by Unilever of a statement regarding operating in Israel. Her position is seemingly that all of Israel and Israeli territory is “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” That is why she was alarmed by Israel’s “downgrading Arabic as an official language,” (nothing to do with the West Bank) and efforts by Congress “that would criminalize the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and Israeli settlements,” (note the inclusion of Israel.)
The B&J board’s statement was vague in verbiage as to whether OPT meant just the West Bank or the entire area known as Palestine in 1917, allowing mainstream progressive groups to jump to the defense of B&J on the premise that this action was just a non-violent “social mission” fighting against Israel’s “military occupation” of the West Bank, and cheered by the radical left and jihadi extremists who consider ALL of Israel to be under occupation.
What Constitutes a Social Mission
Is opposing the existence of a Jewish homeland a valid social mission?
That is the current mindset connecting jihadists, progressives and the alt-right today.
The anti-Zionists were birthed in the Arab and Muslim worlds in 1917 at the Balfour Declaration. The alt-right joined the cause in earnest during the reign of Nazi Germany which collaborated against “the shared… enemy [of world Jewry] and joint fight against it and creating the strong base uniting Germany and freedom-seeking Arabs around the world,” as Heinrich Himmler wrote to the Palestinian Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in 1943. The toxicity spread at the United Nations as more Arab and Muslim countries were admitted and effectively passed the “Zionism is Racism” resolution in 1975. While that resolution was rescinded in 1991 due to the efforts of the United States, it was reintroduced to the world at the Durban Conference in 2001, just before the jihadi attacks on America on 9/11. With the Zionism-is-Racism smear once again in vogue and the progressive wing of intersectionality pushing active anti-Racism initiatives, Anti-Zionism got incorporated under the same banner by necessity.
Is anti-Racism a social mission? Most likely. If one believes that “Zionism is Racism” it follows naturally that anti-Zionism is a social mission too.
Lost in the logic is recognizing the false premise of the “Zionism is Racism” mantra. The notion that Jews should be able to live throughout their holiest land where they have thousands of years of history is a matter of simple human rights. The dream of having independence and sovereignty in the land is no longer a “debatable political philosophy” (to quote Keith Ellison, a progressive politician) but a reality. Arguing against Zionism today is a call to dismantle the sole Jewish State, an anti-Semitic urge.
Anti-Semitism is not a social mission. At least, not for any decent human being or organization.
Internal / External Social Mission
The social mission of a company often helps it build its brand, empower employees and the community in which it operates and serves. The choices are therefore important.
Some experts suggest avoiding politics, niche causes and charisma-fueled social missions, while stressing issues like the environment, local community involvement and charity.
Ben & Jerry’s did not follow this advice and always made its political leanings known. It’s current focus areas include a host of progressive issues including: criminal justice reform; voting rights; racial justice; LGBT rights; climate justice; campaign finance reform; and refugee rights.
The company actively engages in some of these things as a matter of how it runs the company, for example making products in an environmentally-friendly way. In other situations, it tries to inform people about a topic – like criminal justice reform – with articles on its website and directing people how to register to vote.
The company is not shy about getting involved in controversial topics like “Defund the Police,” where it argues that Minneapolis disbanding its police department “is a great start.”
Some topics, like abortion, do not make it onto its website, perhaps to avoid alienating about 40% of America. Still, it signs onto letters in advertisements that criticize abortion restrictions.
So with such history of activism outside the walls of the company’s business, it should not be a surprise that the company would wade into the Arab/Muslim-Israeli conflict.
The question is, what is its position? Does it seek coexistence and peace? Does it advocate for a one state, two state or three state solution? Does it want to see the end of Israel as a Jewish State?
Ben & Jerry’s has operated in Israel since 1987, even before the First Intifada. It has distributed ice cream throughout Israel and EGL/West Bank over this time, even during the waves of Palestinian terrorism and wars over the past 20 years. This suggests that the company has (or at least had) no issue doing business in the Jewish State or its territories.
Anuradha Mittal joined the B&J board in 2008, the same year she founded the Oakland Institute. Her publications there covered many countries including Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Sierra Leone. Some publications were highly critical of the U.S. Bush Administration for using the War on Terror to cut aid to some poor countries. She wrote that “the U.S. threatened to sever humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine for exercising their right to vote.” Well, maybe not for the act of voting but for voting overwhelmingly for Hamas, a US designated terrorist organization which killed over a thousand people. She skipped that part but added “Alarmed by its [Hamas’s] victory, President Bush announced to his Cabinet that he will not support a Palestinian government made up of Hamas. The U.S. has put pressure on other international donors to follow similar action with the intention of bankrupting the future Hamas-led Palestinian Authority,” and added her concern that “nearly one-half of all Palestinians already live below the poverty line…. and cutting off aid would push the Palestinian territories into chaos.” She tacitly advocated for the US to support a government run by a Palestinian political-terrorist group.
That article which covered the broad War on Terror was an outlier and Mittal did not devote much time to the Arab/Muslim-Israeli conflict at the Oakland Institute until 2017 when she became alarmed at the election of Donald Trump and his pro-Israel positions. It seems that despite B&J operating in Israel for 30 years, the idea of taking action against Israel really came to the front of her mind as U.S. policy began to favor Israel more explicitly.
Is the Action Legal or Moral
As discussed above, the promotion of peace and coexistence is a noble social mission. Actions to advance that mission could include donating to schools and organizations that facilitate dialogue and working together. Ben and Jerry’s donates to numerous causes and there is no shortage of groups (mostly in Israel) which seek to develop a harmonious future which would be happy beneficiaries of the company’s funds but the company specifically excludes donating to international organizations.
In contrast, there are actions that do not advance peace and coexistence such as supporting a ban on Jews living alongside Arabs in the West Bank and in eastern Jerusalem. The denial of Jewish history and connection to the land is not only anti-Semitic but harms the ability for the people to live together as it falsely portrays Jews as foreigners. Promoting a status quo which prevents Jews from praying at their holiest location is a simple denial of basic human rights.
The question comes back to what is the underlying “value” that the board is seeking to promote and is the subsequent course of action, legal and moral.
The board clearly feels that the United States needs to improve a lot in areas like police reform, refugee and LGBT rights, not to mention those of indigenous Americans. Yet B&J continues to manufacture and serve ice cream in these non-perfect lands. It runs its business as a profit-oriented company, selling its products in all 50 states, while articulating methods in which it believes the country can improve. It comments on its values and continues to sell ice cream.
The company has done the opposite in regards to Israel. There is no stated message anywhere on the B&J site about its objection to the state and how it is “inconsistent” with its values. It just published the July 19 statement above that it was going to stop conducting business in the “occupied Palestinian territories.” It did this, with the full knowledge – and perhaps hoping – that various states and countries which have laws banning the boycott of Israel and its territories would take action against the company to elevate the discussion globally.
If the company is against serving its products in disputed territories then it should say so and take similar actions in Cyprus/Turkey, Kashmir/India/Pakistan, Tibet/China, Western Sahara/Morocco and other locations as a new corporate policy and live with the ramifications of doing so. I cannot imagine that Unilever would allow B&J to take such actions of severely hurting the company’s business, which must fall outside the spirit of their agreement.
Israel did not annex the territory it took in a defensive war against Jordan (which itself, had illegally annexed the land in 1950), with the exception of the eastern half of Jerusalem which had been ethnically-cleansed of its Jews under Muslim Arab rule. Israel has withheld annexation in the hopes of arriving at a land-for-peace arrangement which has been consistently rejected by the Palestinians. To penalize Israel and/or the people living in the territory for holding out the hope of reaching an enduring peace goes beyond being illegal in many jurisdictions to being simply asinine.
Ben & Jerry’s board is headed by someone who seemingly thinks all of Israel is occupied Palestinian territory and believes the US should support the popular political-terrorist group Hamas. She is now taking aim at Israel and its territories in full knowledge that such action is considered illegal in many jurisdictions despite the company not taking similar actions in other disputed lands (which also do not incur financial repercussions). Further, while decrying a long list of problems in the United States, B&J continues to operate and sell its products here, but in contrast, it never says anything about the Arab/Muslim-Israeli conflict and then suddenly announces its intention to boycott the region.
The shroud of a social mission does not provide a shield from the accusations of inconsistency, double-standards and poor business judgment, and a global progressive company joining the BDS movement does not miraculously christen anti-Zionism as a “value” for a either a person or a company.
The fallout from the B&J boycott is in the early days and may yet claim the chair of its board.
The pro-Israel community is livid about Ben & Jerry’s decisions to ban the sale of its ice cream in the Israeli territories of Area C and to not renew its affiliation with the distributor who sells the ice cream in Israel. Kosher stores around the world are removing the ice cream from its shelves and pro-Zionists and human rights activists are considering boycotting Unilever (the conglomerate which owns Ben & Jerry’s) products.
But not J Street. Jeremy Ben Ami congratulated Ben & Jerry’s on the move:
J Street President @JeremyBenAmi said that @benandjerrys was drawing “a principled and rational distinction between commercial transactions in the State of Israel & those in the territory it occupies.”
Far left extremist rabbis and synagogue presidents proudly affiliate with the organization while members sit in silence and assume that if their religious leaders support the group which bills itself as “pro-Israel”, then actions advocated by J Street like boycotting Israel and giving Iran a legal pathway to nuclear weapons, must be the pro-Israel thing to do.
It is time for Israel supporters to show J Street and its backers the door before they advance truly dangerous initiatives to a feckless administration and susceptible organizations which might believe they actually speak for the Jewish community.
Palestinian Arabs are like the kid who kills his parents and then asks the court for mercy because he is an orphan.
Here are a few examples:
The Security Barrier which Palestinian Arabs call an “Apartheid Wall.” Once upon a time there was no separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank. But the Arabs launched a ferocious wave of terrorism beginning in September 2000 killing and maiming hundreds of people. By 2002, Israel decided it was imperative to erect a mix of fencing and concrete walls to stop the flow of Arab jihadi terrorists from entering Israel. By 2005, the number of terrorist attacks dropped significantly due to the barrier. The Palestinians hate the wall and blame Israel for it, even though it was constructed because of their genocidal actions.
The Gaza Blockade which Palestinian Arabs and supporters refer to as “the World’s Largest Open Air Prison.“ In 2006, Palestinians elected the terrorist group Hamas to 58% of their parliament. Hamas routed the rival Fatah party from Gaza the following year and took over ruling the strip. As Hamas’s charter calls for the destruction of Israel and its history of terrorist attacks, the Jewish State imposed a blockade of Gaza to keep Hamas from importing weapons. The terrorist-political group has still done its utmost to wage war against Israel with missiles, underground tunnels, arson balloons and more. Despite the genocidal intent and actions, Israel still allows goods to flow in and out of Gaza through managed ports, as well as electricity to flow into the area. The Palestinians complain that the blockade is illegal even though investigations concluded that it is warranted due to Hamas’s genocidal actions and stated intentions.
Israeli Soldiers Protecting Jews on the Temple Mount. Palestinians and their supporters complain that Israeli troops harass Muslim worshipers and “storm” the al Aqsa Compound. The reality is that Muslim worshipers have specifically targeted Jewish visitors to the site for years with taunts and pelting them with rocks, necessitating the Israeli security detail.
Palestinians blame Israel for the “Nakba” in 1948. Jews moved to the holy land at six to seven times the rate of Muslims during the Ottoman period as well as since the Balfour Declaration. But since the Ottomans left Palestine, Arabs have rioted and done everything in their power to stop Jews from entering the Jewish holy land, including riots, terrorism and trying to destroy the Jewish State at its rebirth in 1948. Palestinians mourn losing the civil war they initiated and then pretend that the number of Arabs in Israel and in Israeli and Palestinian territories hasn’t skyrocketed since then, with outrageous claims of “ethnic cleansing.”
The “Occupation.” While Zionists approved the proposed United Nations Partition Plan in 1947, the Arabs unanimously rejected it and went to war. The Arabs continued warring many more times in attempts to destroy Israel but the result was losing land, lives and dignity. Palestinian leadership continued to refuse Israeli peace offers, even in 2000 and 2008, opting instead for war. The fact that Israel has not annexed all of the lands in the hopes of one day making peace in an action that no nation in the world would ever make is remarkable. Yet anti-Zionists invert the situation and blame Israel for holding out the prospect of land-for-enduring peace, rather than blame Palestinian Arabs for constantly going to war and refusing coexistence.
Jews buying land via third parties. Palestinian Arabs and their anti-Zionist supporters describe Jews buying land in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank in “shadowy transactions” in a libelous attempt to make them appear as sneaky and crooked Jews “nibbling Arab land.” The reality is that the Palestinian Authority has anti-Semitic laws which call for the death penalty for any Arab who sells land to a Jew, so they have to conduct real estate transactions via third parties or the Arabs would get killed. Read the stories of Issam Akel, Ahmed Salama or Ezra Nawi and then ponder how Jews attempting to do a normal activity like buying homes for their families are portrayed in vile fashion because of anti-Semitic Palestinian laws.
All around the world, going on a plane requires arriving at the airport hours in advance, going through long security lines, removing shoes and belts, and being scanned in a prophylactic system to prevent death and mayhem because of the actions of jihadi extremists twenty years ago. Israel has similarly instituted security measures to protect lives after years of jihadi wars and terrorism.
The TSA, airport screening, the security barrier and Gaza blockade are not forms of collective punishment but systems put in place to protect society from the all too real Islamic extremism and terrorism.
The Anti-Zionist Lexicon continues to evolve in sinister ways.
The term “settlers” once only referred to Israelis who moved to remote new “settlement” locations. The term then was modified to only apply to Israeli Jews, not Israeli Arabs who moved into new settlements. Later it was adjusted by anti-Zionists to target any Jew (Israeli or not) who moved into EXISTING homes and towns east of the Green Line (EGL), so an Israeli Arab and Israeli Jew could be living next to each other in an apartment building in Jerusalem, in which the Arab is called a “resident” while the Jew is called a “settler.”
Nuts. And it gets worse.
Yesterday, on the solemn Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av which marks the destruction of the Jewish Temples in Jerusalem as well as other Jewish tragedies, many Jews from around Israel went to visit the Jewish Temple Mount during normal Sunday visiting hours. The Palestinian Authority, Al Jazeera and a number of anti-Zionist publications decried the visit of the “settlers.” The sub-headline from Al Jazeera read:
“Palestinians accuse Israeli forces of launching tear gas, rubber bullets at Palestinians as Israeli settlers enter Al-Aqsa compound.“
These were regular Israeli Jews – not people who lived in remote locations in the “West Bank” – who came to visit Judaism’s holiest location on a Jewish holiday during regular visiting hours. But the language chosen was alarmist, as the Palestinian Authority is demanding a return to the anti-Semitic situation imposed during the nineteen years of Jordanian control of Jerusalem, in which Jews were not only barred from living in the city but could not visit or pray there as well.
The mobilization of redefinitions is gathering steam in the anti-Zionist press. Al Jazeera posted much the same on May 23rd in article titled “Backed by Israeli police, Jewish settlers enter Al-Aqsa compound,” talking about Israeli police beating Muslims to “make way for Israeli Jewish settlers to storm the compound,” in an effort to inflame a global holy war against the Jews.
This is the evolving regressive approach of jihadist extremists and their enablers. They are working to change language to change the narrative that any and all Jews entering the Jewish Temple Mount are unwanted and illegal invaders of purely Islamic holy site. Yesterday, the Israeli Islamist party Ra’am said so specifically, that the Temple Mount is “solely the property of Muslims, and no one else has any right to it.“
Islamist extremists are attempting to label any Jew who visits Judaism’s holiest location as an illegal invader in an attempt to draw support for a global jihad against the most persecuted people in the world. They should be loudly rebuked for doing so.
There is a loud chorus of people who don’t simply disagree with some Israeli policies, they are against the entire principle of Zionism. Keith Ellison, the current Attorney General of Minnesota and former Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Council summed up this attitude when he said “Zionism, the ideological undergirding of Israel, is a debatable political philosophy.“
The objection to Zionism stems from a belief that global powers had no right to facilitate the movement of Jews to Palestine as they outlined in the 1920 San Remo Agreement and the 1922 Mandate of Palestine. The fact that Jews always moved to Israel at rates far surpassing non-Jews even during the Ottoman Empire period is actively ignored as besides the point.
The root of the Arab objection was that it was no longer a fellow Muslim entity (the Ottoman Empire) which ruled them in Palestine but Western powers. Christian nations decided they would enable the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” another non-Muslim group. Even though Jews historically lived in the land, considered the land holy and moved to the land during Ottoman rule, the local Arabs considered the non-Muslim efforts an assault on their way of life.
Consider the statement by President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser in May 1967 as he readied to destroy Israel: “What is Israel? Israel today is the United States. The United States is the chief defender of Israel.” Muslim nations view the Jewish State as a foreign implant of western powers which continues to be supported by such foreigners (jihadists read ‘infidels’). It is an attitude that drives Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to demand an apology from Britain for the Balfour Declaration today.
That position manifests itself in two principal ways: hating the presence of Jews in Palestine, and protesting the sovereignty of the Jewish State of Israel.
The Presence of Jews
While Jews rapidly moved to Palestine under the Ottomans, they did so in even greater numbers under the British and then under the modern State of Israel. The influx of these people offended the Arabs who fought to curtail the immigration of Jews, even during the Holocaust as they were being wiped out in Europe, getting the British to institute the infamous 1939 White Paper. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem met with Adolf Hitler and many other Nazi leaders to make sure European Jews never made it to Palestine. Palestinian Arab efforts caused the deaths of over 100,000 Jews, many more than the total number of Arabs who died fighting Israel since the country’s founding.
When Israel declared itself an independent state in 1948, several Arab countries invaded with the stated goal of destroying it. After the Transjordanian army took over Judea and Samaria, it ethnically cleansed every Jew from the area and gave citizenship to everyone as long as they weren’t Jewish. During the nineteen years that the re-branded Jordan held the Old City of Jerusalem, it destroyed 56 of the 58 synagogues and wouldn’t allow any Jews to enter the city walls to pray at the Western Wall.
That Judenfrei sentiment remains. Those Jordanian Arabs are now called Palestinian Arabs in the renamed “West Bank.” The current head, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he “would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands,” calling to ethnically-cleanse Jews from the region once again. Palestinian law makes it a crime – either with a death sentence or life in prison – for selling land to Jews.
Today, many pro-Palestinians continue to argue that the mere presence of Jews is an affront to Palestinian pride. White House correspondent Helen Thomas said Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland, Germany, America and “everywhere else.” In October 2014, President Barack Obama’s spokesperson said the Obama administration condemns Jews who move into “residential buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan” because their “agenda provokes tensions.” This inversion blamed new Jewish neighbors for the anti-Semitism of the local Arabs.
The Sovereignty of a Jewish State
Some anti-Zionists are less triggered by the physical presence of Jews and more by the notion of a Jewish State. They object to a land which had a Muslim majority for a thousand years suddenly having a flag with a Jewish star and an anthem reflecting the yearning of Jews. Many Muslims regard this as a direct insult to Islam.
Shortly after the founding of Israel, the Muslim world routed almost all of its local Jews. Almost all Muslim countries still refuse to recognize the Jewish State over 70 years later. Other Islamic regimes are more aggressive such as Iran, which said that Israel is “cancerous tumor” (a dangerous foreign entity) that “will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed.”
The Palestinians are divided between those who want to see the Jewish State destroyed (HAMAS/Gaza) and those who won’t recognize it (Fatah/West Bank), like PA President Abbas who said “We will never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel.” The Palestinian objection to Jewish sovereignty is so ingrained that leadership would forgo establishing a new Palestinian Arab State if it also required recognizing Israel as a Jewish State. It begs the question of whether Palestinians truly are “desperate” for independence and sovereignty or to be rid of the Jewish State.
Many non-Muslim anti-Zionists hold common cause decrying Israel. While there may be dozens of Islamic states as well as religious Christian democracies like Denmark and Greece, Palestinian supporters shout absurd smears of “Jewish supremacy” and “apartheid” against the liberal country which has more rights for all of its citizens than any country within 1,000 miles.
Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism
People debate whether anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism in a more politically-acceptable form. As reviewed here, one needs to look at the nuances of anti-Zionism to reach the conclusion.
In the first instance – the people who do not want Jewish neighbors and would go so far as to support the genocide of the Jews in Europe – the answer is clear that they despise Jews. Palestinian Arabs are overwhelming anti-Semitic as further shown in recent ADL polls which show 93% of West Bank and Gaza Arabs hold anti-Jewish views.
Regarding the notion of Jewish sovereignty, it is true that the idea of creating a Jewish State 100 years ago may have been “debatable” to quote Ellison but Israel is a well established reality. The country is more stable, more democratic, more open and thriving compared to all of the countries which surround it. To call for the country’s destruction (as Iran does) or to call for boycotts and divestment only against this country for perceived short-comings is a poor double-standard which reeks of anti-Semitism.
The majority of Palestinians are complete anti-Zionists, objecting to both the presence of Jews and the sovereignty of Jews in the holy land. Most Muslim countries are less extreme and do not object to Jews living in Israel as long as they become a minority living under an Islamic flag. Other Muslim countries have normalized relations with the Jewish State, noting that the country is a wonderful trading partner and not going anywhere.
Outside of the Muslim world, liberal anti-Zionists believe that they are siding with the stateless Arab underdogs as part of their religion of empathy. However, they all-too-often adopt the anti-Semitic language and philosophy of anti-Zionism: seeking to minimize the presence of Jews in their ancestral and holy land, as well as to obliterate the only Jewish State.
Some anti-Zionists might object to these two categories and suggest they do not object to Jews as neighbors, just as invaders. That argument simply means they deny Jewish history which is also anti-Semitic. Others could protest that “Zionism is Racism” is a commonly held belief, as demonstrated at the 2001 Durban Conference to combat Racism. The reality is that there is a lot of systemic hatred, such as the reality that most of the world also considers homosexuality a crime which does not absolve the anti-LGBT sentiment, much as anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist laws do not wash the hateful stain. Anti-Semitism remains a large global problem in its many forms.
Thousands of years ago, it made sense to focus on the narrow strip of land that acted as a bridge between Africa and Europe / Asia, but no longer, in this larger, connected world.
The ongoing critical obsession on a country with 0.1% of the global population which is home to the most persecuted people in history which suffered both a genocide in the European continent and a mass expulsion from the Muslim Middle East / North Africa within the last century should raise immediate alarms. That the goal of much of the criticism of the Jewish State is to weaken it militarily and economically or even to destroy Jewish autonomy in their ancestral home and religious capital is terrifying, and must be combatted aggressively.
A person can be in favor of yet another Arab state to join the dozens of others without being an anti-Zionist. However, one cannot be an anti-Zionist without being an anti-Semite.
Judaism is the only religion which is tied to a specific land, the land of Israel.
Judaism created the very notion of “promised land,” not as an aspirational dream as commonly used today, but as an actual piece of land passed as an inheritance for generations.
Only Jews consider the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem as their holiest location.
Jews are the only people who pray facing Jerusalem, regardless of where they are.
Only Jews are commanded to visit Jerusalem three times per year.
Jerusalem is the most mentioned city in the Hebrew bible.
Jerusalem has been the focal point of Judaism for over 3,000 years.
Israel is the only country whose national anthem is all about its capital city.
Jews have been the largest group of residents in Jerusalem continuously since the 1860’s. There is no other capital where Jews are the majority.
Israel is the only Jewish State.
Israel is also the only country:
which is not recognized by dozens of countries at the United Nations
whose capital city is not recognized by the majority of the members of the UN
which is singled out as a routine part of the UN’s Human Rights Council
where Jewish and non-Jewish residents in the eastern part of the capital are attributed different names of “settler” and “resident” in the non-Jewish world
Jerusalem and Israel are unique and special to Jews. The passion of its lovers and haters regarding the exceptional Jewish connection to both says more about their overall attitudes towards Jews than the locations themselves.
There was a time when people understood what genocide meant.
They saw the brutality of Nazi Germany’s largely successful effort to exterminate the Jews in Europe. They read about China, the USSR and Turkey killing millions of their own citizens during the 20th century, and recall Rwanda’s civil war with 800,000 people wiped out in just 100 days. Genocide was the brutal slaughter of an entire unwanted ethnic group.
There was a time when people recognized the evil of unjustly accusing people of “genocide.”
In December 2013, United Nations’ Special Rapporteur Richard Falk called Israel “genocidal,” whereupon Canada immediately called for Falk to be fired. In 2017, when Falk tried to push through a report at the UN calling Israel an “apartheid” regime, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley got the report withdrawn. Horrific lies and smears were met with outrage and action.
No longer. The steady drip of anti-Israel propaganda has taken root and decent people are now running for cover from the hate-filled tsunami.
Shrill voices on college campuses are claiming that Israel is committing a “genocide” against Palestinian Arabs, coming from the mouths of both professors and students at institutions like Rutgers and Yale. The charge is “ethnic cleansing” of Muslim Arabs at UCLA and CUNY.
The accusations are outrageous.
Lies. At the most basic level, the statements are outright lies, as the Arab population in Israel and Jerusalem have not only grown faster than Jews in the country and capital city, but have grown at a faster rate than Arabs in the neighboring countries as well.
Inversions of Perpetrator and Victim. Worse than the fabrication is the attempted inversion of the fanatic Muslim anti-Semitic attackers into victims. Palestinian leadership conspired with Nazi Germany to kill Jews and worked with the British to keep Jews fleeing for the lives from entering Palestine. After the brutal slaughter of 6 million Jews, the Muslim Arabs went to war to wipe out the paltry number of Jews who made it to safety in Palestine. Losing that 1948-9 Arab-Israeli war, the Muslim world expunged nearly a million local Jews in a massive ethnic cleansing. They attempted to annihilate the Jews gain in 1967, only to lose the war – and land – once again. Since 2000, localized terrorism has been the preferred vehicle to express their disgust with Jewish neighbors. When Jews defend themselves from attacks, anti-Semites attempt to portray them as offensive, such as labeling the security barrier Israel built in response to Palestinian Arab terrorism as an “apartheid wall.”
Anti-Semitic Propaganda. Even more dangerous than the lies and offensive inversion of victim and attacker is the motivation for the smears. Like the Nazis who put forth a propaganda machine to label the Jews as degenerates and conspirators to enlist the masses in the purge of the Jews, today’s calls against the Jewish State are designed to weaken an isolate it, while enemies in Muslim countries like Iran and Syria along with their terrorist clients including Hamas and Hezbillah prepare to attack again. The chants of “Free Palestine” and “From the River to the Sea” are the stated goals of destroying Israel accompanying the foundational slurs of Jewish “colonialists” committing “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide.” They are attempting to educate the world that Jews never rights to land or sovereignty in the holy land, and are evil invaders unworthy of a state and support.
In 2001, just before nineteen Muslim hijackers took civilian airplanes to kill thousands of people on American soil, anti-Semites cloaked as “anti-racists” hijacked the 2001 Durban Conference. The United States withdrew from the horrific spectacle at that time, and now, twenty years later, continues to distances itself from the anniversary commemoration. Alas, the insidious “Zionism is Racism” Redux propaganda has already infected the West.
The noxious “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” smears against Israel which used to only emanate from the mouths of jihadists are now being echoed on college campuses, the liberal mainstream media and the halls of Congress. This vilification of Israel is designed to set the stage for the eradication of the reestablished Jewish State, much as Nazi propaganda facilitated the genocide of European Jewry. While the slanderers self-identify as “pro-Palestinian protestors,” history will refer to them as Hamas’ Willing Executioners.
Progressive and conservative people around the world have different interpretations of justice.
For progressives, justice is achieved by enabling people who have been marginalized to succeed. It seeks to even the playing field by affording those at the edges some advantages to address systemic roadblocks which kept them down for so long. Justice demands reform in various areas beyond economy and law, to include healthcare and the environment.
Conservatives view justice through a narrower lens of tradition and law. They appreciate order and security, and upholding historic truths. Justice demands a system which rewards or punishes risk and investment. It requires uneven outcomes in order to spur overall growth.
Zionism speaks justice to both.
Liberals rallied to Zionism after the Holocaust of the Jews in Europe. They saw systemic anti-Semitism commit a genocide of millions of European Jews in the 1940’s and then watched the Muslim world expunge its Jewry from 1948 through the 1970’s. A home where Jews could be safe and self-governing was clearly needed in the creation and building up of the Jewish State.
Conservatives were some of the earliest Zionists – even pre-dating the first Zionist Congress in 1897 – and continue to be strong supporters. They appreciate Jews’ 3,300 year-history in the land of Israel, and understand that “the promised land” is a religious term uniquely meant for Jews about that Jewish holy land.
Progressives are amazed that a small new country was able to absorb immigrants fleeing persecution from dozens of diverse countries including: Morocco, Russia, Argentina, Uruguay, France, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, Ukraine and Yemen. There is no country in the world that has such a high percentage of immigrants coming into the country – virtually penniless – from so many lands. None.
Conservatives are amazed at the stability and application of the law in Israel. While other countries in the region have killed hundreds of thousands in wars, the strong Israeli army has kept its wars very short, minimizing death tolls. While the authoritarian leaders of neighboring countries stay in power for decades, Israel holds genuine elections and prosecutes its leaders, sometimes sending former prime ministers to prison.
People from across the political spectrum may not know some statistics about Israel but aren’t surprised to hear them. For example, Israel is the only religious country which has more tourists each year from a different religion (the Jewish State has more Christian tourists than any other religious group; other religious countries like Denmark have mostly Christian visitors; Iran, mostly Muslim visitors). Some facts may surprise them, such as the fact that the Arab population in Jerusalem has gone up by 3.4 times since 1980 when Israel declared the city as its eternal capital, compared to a rise of only 1.9 times for the Jewish population.
Both progressives and conservatives marvel at the religious freedoms in the only Jewish State. Muslims may wear hijabs (banned in France), build minarets near mosques (banned in Switzerland) and have halal meat (banned in the Scandinavian countries). Anyone of any faith can become prime minister in Israel (only Christians can lead Greece, only Muslims in Syria). Israel even helped the Mormons build a church in Jerusalem! and the Baha’i have a major temple in Haifa (the faith is banned in Qatar).
Liberals love that Israel is a green country, leading the world in recycling plastic. It was the first country in the Middle East to have wind farms and a bike sharing program. It also has a universal healthcare system for every citizen and permanent resident. Meanwhile, conservatives love that the Jewish State has a thriving free market built on capitalism. It has more companies listed on Nasdaq than any other country except for China (a country with a population 155 times as large).
Israel has strived to build a country that incorporates freedom, justice and fairness in an open, secure and vibrant multi-cultural society, in the heart of a turbulent and extremist neighborhood.
When Israel declared itself an independent state in 1948, it called for justice instinctively understood by both progressives and conservatives:
“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
Israel was designed as a particular Jewish State, focused on Jewish immigration and a vision of peace based on the Jewish bible, but also with “complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective of religion.” The country’s foundational principles stressed both the particular and universal in a unique and bold ambition for justice for all: a space for the most persecuted minority in the world, and a philosophy of justice based on history, tradition, truth and fairness.
Progressive and conservative people around the world have different interpretations of justice, yet both see their visions realized in Israel.