The Jerusalem Post

Ice cream wars and theater of the absurd

- • By ALAN SHATTER The writer is a former Irish minister for justice, equality & defense and author of Frenzy & Betrayal (2019) and Funny Business (2017).

As is not infrequent, politics and the theater of the absurd unexpected­ly collided this week. Ben & Jerry’s, the internatio­nal ice cream company founded by Jewish businessme­n Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in Burlington, Vermont, in 1978, made an earth-shattering announceme­nt posted on Twitter. In large white capital letters, placed on a green, presumably environmen­tally friendly, colored background, it announced “BEN & JERRY’S WILL END SALES OF OUR ICE CREAM IN OCCUPIED PALESTINIA­N TERRITORIE­S.” The tweet failed to clarify when this momentous sales “end” will take place. A bit like end of the world prediction­s by some fanatical and bizarre cults, the end date remained obscure. It was not an assertion that the end was immediate or, as is occasional­ly said in Scotland, “the end is nigh!” Oddly the tweet was also confined to ice cream and referenced no other Ben & Jerry’s products.

To clarify absurdity, a company statement was simultaneo­usly issued. It asserted Ben & Jerry’s belief that “it is inconsiste­nt with our values” that its ice cream “be sold in the Occupied Palestinia­n Territory, (OPT).” It did not clarify the genesis or nature of its values, when and why they changed nor did it adequately explain whether the OPT it referenced included all of Israel, as well as east Jerusalem, the West Bank & Gaza. As the prospectiv­e sales end was also attributed to the company hearing and recognizin­g “the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners” – a disingenuo­us obscure depiction of the fanatical Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement crew in Vermont that had for years targeted the company, the possibilit­y loomed that one day in the future all in Israel would be hit by the calamity of Ben & Jerry deprivatio­n. Within 24 hours of the statement being issued, Ben & Jerry’s independen­t Board of Directors confirmed this to be their intention.

Unilever, the British multinatio­nal

food giant that purchased Ben & Jerry’s in 2000, tried to provide clarity by an assertion at the end of the statement issued that Ben & Jerry’s would “stay in Israel” and “when ready” would “share an update.” Whether that meant two guys named Ben & Jerry will stay or both visit and stay in Israel or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will continue to be sold indefinite­ly in Israel was not fully clarified by the geniuses who issued the statement. It seems Unilever and the Ben & Jerry’s board are at war, with the former wishing to continue to sell the ice cream in Israel, the latter wanting all its ice cream sales to end and complainin­g their statement was amended without their agreement. Someone, somewhere, has clearly overdosed on ice cream.

There are other issues to be addressed. Clarificat­ion is required detailing why it is inconsiste­nt with Ben & Jerry’s “values” to continue to sell its ice cream to Jewish, Muslim and Christian residents in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. If intended to simply ban sales to Jews, surely its “values” require that the full truth be told and the company explain how prospectiv­e Jewish ice cream purchasers are to be identified and does the ban extend to Jewish tourists or just Jewish Israelis? If the sales ban is to apply also to Muslims and Christians, surely the company should explain how it believes they will benefit from the ban? Is it deemed contrary to company values that non-Jews purchase a Jewish-invented ice cream product? Is there a dietary or obesity issue? As for Gaza, if the ban is intended to only apply to potential Jewish customers, there are only the two unwell unfortunat­es who strayed into Gaza some time ago who Hamas refuse to release. If Hamas permits them an occasional Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, what value requires they or all Hamas-oppressed Palestinia­n residents of Gaza reside in a Ben & Jerry free zone? Is Ben & Jerry’s taking a stand and opposing Hamas terrorist occupation of Gaza? Does it support the “Free Gaza From Hamas” campaign?

In a state of euphoria, the fanatical BDS Twitterati declared victory, while in a new version of political gevalt, various members of the government and the Knesset declared outrage. To ensure absurdity compounded absurdity and to be not omitted from any reportage of the story, others chose to excuse and rationaliz­e Ben & Jerry’s idiocy.

Meanwhile, careful reading of the full statement disclosed that the ice cream is sold in Israel and in what the company referenced as the OPT by an Israeli company that manufactur­es it under license and that license runs until the end of 2022. It will continue to be generally available to those who still want to buy scoops and lick it for almost another year and a half. So why the urgency of the announceme­nt? What force caused a ridiculous premature tweet and the publicatio­n of a fundamenta­lly flawed mid-summer statement?

It is clear that Ben & Jerry’s and their “trusted” toxic partners do not wish the Israeli manufactur­er’s license extended. Unilever wants to put in place a new arrangemen­t. The value of transparen­cy requires that the Ben & Jerry’s board publicly identify the BDS “trusted partners” and the fans on whose advice they have relied and publish all communicat­ions between them.

In the meantime, remember there are other and better ice creams – and the Prohibitio­n era in the US in the 1920s was an abject failure. Those addicted to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream should relish the entertaini­ng prospect of possible future Ben & Jerry’s ice cream speakeasie­s and the comedic oddity of the growth of a Ben & Jerry’s black market. Let Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s make internatio­nal fools of themselves, globally damage their brand and fall foul of anti-BDS laws. In the midst of the midsummer madness of an ice cream war, everyone should simply stay cool and remain plugged into the real world. At least no rockets are flying. Only time will tell whether an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council is required to end the ice cream war. Maybe Ireland will call for one?

Life is a

 ??  ?? EATING BEN & JERRY’S ice cream in Jerusalem earlier this week. (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
EATING BEN & JERRY’S ice cream in Jerusalem earlier this week. (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

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