On Friday, a coalition of Orthodox Jewish rabbis announced that it had garnered 10,000 signatures on a petition in which signers pledged to boycott Ben & Jerry’s after the ice cream chain announced it would stop serving Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. As of Friday afternoon, 10,465 people had signed the petition.
“We, the undersigned, condemn Ben & Jerry’s decision to end sales in Judea and Samaria, two areas that have been continuously in the possession of the Jewish people for nearly 4,000 years––since Abraham purchased the Cave of the Patriarchs,” the petition reads.
“The company’s decision will perpetuate malicious, ahistorical notions and fuel what is already rampant Jew-hatred in the United States and around the world. In response to Ben & Jerry’s decision to participate in an antisemitic boycott, we refuse to purchase any of the company’s products until it abandons this inhumane policy,” the signers said.
“Those claiming that Ben & Jerry’s policy is not antisemitic only demonstrate their ignorance of antisemitism. The link between the Jewish people and their historic homeland is unbreakable, and BDS [the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement] is an unambiguous rejection of that reality,” Rabbi Pesach Lerner, president of the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), the organization behind the petition, said in a statement on Friday.
“For Ben & Jerry’s—whose headquarters in Vermont sprawls across the land of the Abenaki and other Native American tribes—to describe Jews living in Judea and Samaria as ‘occupiers’ is preposterous,” Lerner quipped. “It puts Ben & Jerry’s in the company of millennia worth of bigots, and, today, antisemites who threaten and carry out violent acts against Jews around the world.”
New York supermarkets cut Ben & Jerry’s products after the decision. Morton Williams Supermarkets cut 70 percent of the ice cream chain’s products. Avi Kaner, the co-owner of the supermarket chain, condemned Ben & Jerry’s for targeting the one Jewish nation in the world.
“Of all the places in the world to boycott, Ben & Jerry’s has chosen to target the one Jewish nation in the world,” Kaner said. The company, he added, is “reaching out to other major retailers and distributors in the hope that they will follow suit.”
Unilever, the company that owns Ben & Jerry’s, has rushed to distance itself from the Israeli boycott. In a call with investors on Thursday, CEO Alan Jope insisted, “If there is one message I want to underscore in this call, it’s that Unilever remains fully committed to our business in Israel.”
When Unilever acquired Ben & Jerry’s, it agreed to give the ice cream chain latitude to carry on the founders’ tradition of engaging “in critical, global economic and social missions.” That has put Unilever in an awkward position.
Some on the Left have accused Israel of maintaining an “Apartheid” state. Yet Yoseph Haddad, an Arab who actually lives in Israel, powerfully countered this claim.
“I’m Yoseph, an Israeli Arab. I checked the definition of apartheid and you seem to be confused by the propaganda of this political org,” Haddad tweeted. “Arabs like me have full equal rights and live, learn, work, and play together. Take it from me, I live it. Stop lying.”
Speaking on Israel’s I-24 News, Haddad explained that Israel is a multi-racial society
“Here you will see Israeli Jews and Arab Christians and Arab Muslims and Druze and all kinds of minorities. Here they shop together, work together, go to school together, make art together, save lives together, report the news together, serve in the army together, protest the government together, even work as lawyers and judges in the courts together,” he said.
“Apartheid” means “apartness” in Afrikaans (a language that developed from Dutch in southern Africa). It refers to the South African policy that separated South Africa’s white minority from its nonwhite majority, using racial segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-whites.
Israel obviously fails to meet this definition of Apartheid, but many activists seize on a smaller aspect of the South African policy in order to justify suggesting that Israel is racist. As part of Apartheid, South Africa set up 10 semi-autonomous African homelands, which all remained dependent on South Africa. Somewhat similarly, the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip enjoy political autonomy but remain reliant on Israel for certain goods and services. Many Palestinians go to Israel for better medical services, even though Palestine has a medical industry, for example.
Ben & Jerry’s Israel boycott appears to have backfired, but Americans need to keep up the pressure. Unilever’s decision to distance itself from Ben & Jerry’s is a good sign, but it seems unlikely that the woke ice cream chain will back down.