Pro-Palestinians argue vehemently for an independent Arab state and complain about the treatment of Arabs in Israel. One rarely hears what an Arab State of Palestine would be like so perhaps it’s worth a review.
Israel’s Model in a Palestinian State
Minority population. Non-Jews make up roughly 25% of Israel. Were a Palestinian State to have 25% minorities, they would account for well over 1 million people. But the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has demanded a country completely devoid of Jews. Pro-Palestinians want to see every Jew evicted from the West Bank, leaving it Jew-free, just as Israel did in the Sinai for Egypt (1982) and in Gaza for the PA (2005).
Land ownership. Israelis of all religions buy and sell homes around the country. In a unique and evil law, the Palestinian Authority calls for the death sentence or life of hard labor for any Palestinian Arab selling land to a Jew.
Freedom to Worship. Mosques with minarets dot Israeli cities. Jews, Muslims and Christians can pray throughout the country. However, the Palestinians demand that Jews be denied the right to pray at Judaism’s holiest location, the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They clearly don’t expect synagogues in a Palestinian State that doesn’t contain any Jews.
Language. The street signs and currency in Israel are in Hebrew and Arabic as well as English. Upon entering Area A or Gaza which are under Palestinian control, all signs are only in Arabic.
Parliament. Israel’s parliament includes Jews, Muslims and Arabs. An extremist Arab party actually sits in the governing coalition.
Palestinian Model in Israel
Terrorist group as political party. HAMAS is a designated terrorist group according to the United States, the European Union and many western countries. Still, it sits as the majority of the Palestinian parliament, having won 58% of the seats in elections. If Israel used such format, the Meir Kahane-inspired group Kach would sit in parliament today, but the Israeli government banned them.
Paying for murder. The Palestinian Authority pays the families of terrorists who kill and maim Israeli, encouraging violence. No country in the world has such a “pay-to-slay” program as a cornerstone of public policy.
Naming schools and square for terrorists. The PA names girls schools, soccer tournaments, public squares and many other fora after Arabs who murder Jews. There is no school or basketball in Israel named for Baruch Goldstein, which Palestinian Arabs probably don’t understand.
If Palestinians sought to build a country with 1 million Jews as Palestinian citizens, with the ability to be in parliament, build synagogues and worship freely around the country, acquire property openly and have meaningful jobs without fear of violence, Israel would not only recognize such country but endorse its creation.
If Palestinians would use Israel’s model for dealing with a minority population there would be a Palestinian state today. The lack of a state stems from the PA’s refusal to coexist peacefully with Jewish neighbors.
The past month was already horrible. Members of Congress, most of them far-left Socialists, voted to defund Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. The New York Times wrote about one of the extremists, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who cried at the floor of Congress because she abstained from voting rather than “voting with her conscience” due to “influential lobbyists and rabbis.“
The anti-Zionist paper pulled the comment about rabbis in its online edition, trying to be clear that it only hates Israel supporters and not all Jews. However, the paper continues to insert its bias against any support for the Jewish State, even for its defenses.
In a soft piece about considering the new host of the television show “Jeopardy,” the Times wrote that the Jewish actress Mayim Bialik was a difficult choice, as she has been involved in a number of controversial topics. Sandwiched between her decisions about not vaccination her children and promoting a health supplement that was sued over false advertising, the opinion-paper f/k/a newspaper wrote “she blogged about donating money to buy bulletproof vests for the Israel Defense Force.“
When the Times reported on the far-left’s votes against Israel’s defenses, it was covering an event. Now the Times made clear its own identical opinion as the anti-Israel extremists: Israelis should not have protection and should be vulnerable to assailants from Gaza, Iran and elsewhere.
The spectacle of Congress voting to replenish the Iron Dome funding was heart-breaking. Voting to replenish the interceptor missiles that saved hundreds – if not thousands – of civilians in Israel was a no-brainer, but nine members of Congress thought that any support of Israel was too much.
Democratic leadership noted that their eight anti-Israel colleagues (there was one Republican that also voted to block the funding) were a small minority and the vast majority of Democratic members of congress voted in favor of defensive support. The leadership insisted that those who pointed out the fracturing of the party were trying to inflate the radicals.
But polls of American civilians show that the left-wing has already pulled away from Israel.
In June 2021, a AP-NORC poll showed the left was pushing the administration for greater support of Palestinians over Israelis. Three times as many (47% to 15%) liberal Democrats as Conservative Republicans thought that the United States is too supportive of Israel. Three times as many (61% Conservative to 17% Liberals) thought that the US wasn’t supportive enough of Israel.
The same poll showed the opposite in relation to support of Palestinian Arabs. Eight times as many (58% Conservatives to 7% Liberals) think the US is too supportive of Palestinians, while seven times as many (62% Liberals to 9% Conservatives) thought the US should devote more support to Palestinian Arabs. To lay that out more directly, 62% and 47% of Liberals think the US should be more supportive of Palestinians and less supportive of Israel, respectively. That’s in sharp contrast to 61% and 58% of Conservatives who think the US should be more supportive of Israel and less supportive of Palestinians.
A University of Maryland poll held around the same time yielded similar results with different questions. Regarding the May fighting between Israel and Gazans, ten times as many Democrats as Republicans blamed Israel for the violence (34.8% Democrats to 3.7% Republicans). Conversely, seven times as many Republicans as Democrats blamed the Palestinians (59.1% Republicans to 8.1% Democrats). Not surprisingly, seven times as many Democrats than Republicans (43.7% to 6.3%) want the US to apply more pressure on Israel, including withholding aid. Many more Republicans (49.0%) prefer applying pressure including withholding aid on the Palestinians than Democrats (8.5%). Independents were much more neutral on the issue.
These poll results show a very different dynamic than argued by Democratic politicians. The far-left (and growing) fringe of their party is becoming more anti-Israel. This makes it easier for the leaders of deep blue districts to vote against Israel in concert with their base.
The redistricting that is occurring around the country based on the 2020 census will certainly change Congress at the next election. It will also likely produce a large increase in the anti-Israel voices in congress.
As Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, I appreciate your involvement in foreign policy and engagement on matters in the Middle East. However, your approach to the region is seemingly a departure from official U.S. foreign policy, at odds with the idea of bipartisanship, belittles the danger of Palestinian terrorist groups and undermines the relationship with Israel.
I note the opening paragraph of the letter your office distributed to people who have written to you about the Arab-Israeli Conflict, about your recent trip to the region, copied here:
“Because you have written to us concerning Israel and Palestine, I wanted to share this important update. Senator Murphy, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, returned from foreign travel this month which included visits to Israel and the West Bank. He led a congressional delegation of his Senate colleagues to discuss regional security and democracy in the region. He was joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.).”
To start, the United States does not recognize any country called “Palestine.” As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, it is imperative that you not unilaterally begin to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority.
Please share the reason that you only traveled to the region with fellow Democrats, especially as President Biden repeatedly stated his desire to keep support of Israel a bipartisan matter between Democrats and Republicans. Was Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) or any of the Republicans on the Foreign Affairs committee unwilling to join the delegation?
I have additional questions as it relates to the second paragraph of your letter:
“The delegation’s visit to Israel came after the formation of a new government under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in June, and was the first to travel to the country after President Biden met with Prime Minister Bennett at the White House. The senators also met with President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and Ra’am Party leader Mansour Abbas to discuss the priorities of the new government and the path forward to ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians can live safely and securely and equally enjoy freedom, prosperity and democracy.The senators also met with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and young Palestinian leaders in the West Bank. In addition, the senators also engaged with USAID partners who are implementing programs on the ground.“
I understand why members of the US Foreign Relations committee would meet with Israel’s prime minister, president and foreign affairs minister. But why would the U.S. delegation meet the head of a small Arab party in the coalition government who is not a member of Israel’s own foreign affairs committee? Do you believe that Israeli Arabs are actually ‘Palestinians’ and wanted to be sure that Israel’s Arab citizens “enjoy freedom”? Or do you think that only an Israeli Arab perspective can shed light on what Palestinian Arabs feel, even though the delegation also met with leaders of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank? If you wanted a perspective of minority groups, did you also visit Israeli Jews living in the West Bank?
I note that you referred to Palestine as a country again when you called Mohammad Shtayyeh the Prime Minister of “Palestine” instead of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Does the subcommittee you head have its own foreign policy apart from the United States?
In your letter’s final paragraph, you decided to gratuitously and falsely accuse the former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu:
“Upon his return from travel, Senator Murphy joined CNN International’s Amanpour with Christiane Amanpour to discuss the United States’ role in the world following the withdrawal from Afghanistan. In recounting his visit to Israel and the West Bank, Senator Murphy said: “[I]t is important to note that this government has taken some really important steps: one, to do outreach with the Palestinians, the first government-to-government meetings at the highest levels in over a decade. And they have begun to open up humanitarian pathways into Gaza. They’re trying to relieve the suffering there in a way that the Netanyahu government would have never contemplated. This is obviously a very unique coalition government… but I left pretty impressed with the seriousness of the government, and some of the early steps that they have taken to lower the temperature, both inside Israel and in the relationship with Palestinians.”
I am baffled how your recollection of a visit to America’s strongest ally in the Middle East begins with the “outreach with the Palestinians.” You falsely stated that the meetings were the first held in “over a decade” between the US and the PA, seemingly forgetting the debacle of a flawed 2014 peace process shepherded by the Obama Administration’s Secretary of State John Kerry.
You stated that the goal of the mission was regarding “regional security and democracy,” yet offered nothing on the remarkable Abraham Accords that the Netanyahu government cemented with several Arab nations over the prior year. Instead, you implied that Netanyahu helped create the suffering in Gaza, rather than note that a US-designated foreign terrorist organization launched several wars against Israel, and the Netanyahu government responded in a restrained manner. Further, Netanyahu enabled Gaza exports to hit record levels in the beginning of 2021 and allowed monies from Qatar to flow into the terrorist-run enclave, much more than the current Israeli Prime Minister Bennett.
Senator, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, Americans expect you to call out the evil of the US-designated terrorist group Hamas, to not upgrade the PA to a state, to acknowledge the expanding circle of diplomatic relations Israel recently forged in the region, and to follow protocol in regards to visiting Israel, America’s strongest ally in the region, without gratuitously bad-mouthing the prior government. Your approach simply leads Americans to believe that the Democratic Party is pulling away from Israel.
On August 24, 1929, Palestinian Arabs incited a riot throughout the Jewish holy land with rumors that Jews were attempting to seize and destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. In Hebron, sixty-nine Jews were brutally slaughtered and hundreds were maimed and injured. The catastrophe was so horrific, that the British who were ruling the land under international mandate, felt compelled to evacuate all of the Jews from the city as they did not feel it would be safe for any Jew to remain among the majority Arab population, ethnically-cleansing the Jewish victims from their holy city.
On the 92nd anniversary of the Arab massacre of Jews, The New York Times wrote an article about Jews praying on the Temple Mount. It characterized the Jews as having a history of aggressively pushing onto a Muslim holy site inciting riots.
The article began with stating that Israel forbids Jews from praying on the Temple Mount, which is true, but it did not state that Israel was maintaining the anti-Semitic policy instituted by Jordan of banning Jewish prayer when it illegally ruled the city. The omission was minor in comparison to the paper’s recap of history.
The paper noted that Israel is in charge of security and the Jordanian waqf is responsible for administrative matters on the Temple Mount, but “when the balance of power has teetered,” bad events happen. The Times listed the visit of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2000 setting off the “Second Intifada“; Israel installing metal detectors in 2017 that led to riots; and Israeli police “raid[ing] the compound several times last spring” provoking an 11-day war with Hamas. In each situation, Israeli actions were attributed as the provocation which led to deaths and destruction.
Misleading its readership, the Times did not write that the “Second Intifada” which began in 2000 was the result of Yasser Arafat, the head of the Palestinian Authority, rejecting the Israeli peace offer capping the Oslo Accords, which would have given Palestinians roughly 98% of their demands, and instead opting for a multi-year war. The Times did not describe Arabs shooting police officers on the Temple Mount in 2017 which led to the decision to install metal detectors. The paper omitted the Arab riots over the evictions of squatters in homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood next to the Old City and the Palestinian Authority cancelling elections which made HAMAS launch hundreds of missiles at Israeli towns.
The Times inverted every story, and recast the Arab attackers as victims.
Obviously, the paper left out the massacre of 69 Jews in Hebron as it revealed that Arabs murder Jews for perceived threats, not actual force.
The New York Times is attempting to rewrite history that Jews are responsible for war, a smear promoted in the infamous forgery ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and in the HAMAS Charter. It is a vile tactic which anti-Semites have used for a long time. That the Times would specifically do it on the anniversary of the 1929 Hebron Massacre marks its editors as cruel sadists as well.
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.
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.