Miami Herald (Sunday)

Ben & Jerry’s boycott is neither anti-Semitic nor a rejection of Israel

- BY TRUDY RUBIN The Philadelph­ia Inquirer

organizati­ons — seemed more appropriat­e for Iran’s ayatollahs than the maker of frozen treats.

“A new form of terrorism,” charged Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, a former chairman of the left-leaning Labor Party. A “shameful surrender to antisemiti­sm,” tweeted centrist Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. An “anti-Israel ice cream,” stated Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

But Ben & Jerry’s wasn’t calling for a boycott of Israel proper. It was focused on Jewish settlement­s in the mostly Palestinia­n West Bank, which the U.S. State Department regards as “occupied” territory. U.S. policy for decades, before the Trump administra­tion, sought to curb growth of settlement­s lest they rule out any future political accord between Israel and the Palestinia­ns.

So why is the Ben & Jerry boycott inspiring such rage?

Critics have linked it to the Palestinia­n-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for countries, businesses and universiti­es to sever ties with Israel, unless it withdraws from all land captured in 1967. The movement is based on the boycott of South Africa under apartheid. But its demands, if fulfilled, would rule out a Jewish homeland.

However, the controvers­ial ice-cream freeze is not currently tied to BDS or to sales within Israel (although there is some discord between Ben & Jerry’s independen­t board and its parent company, Unilever, over future developmen­ts).

The furious reaction to the current boycott only gives free publicity to the BDS movement, and allows it to claim an unearned victory.

So, again, why all the sound and fury over denying Cherry Garcia to settlers, coming even from Israeli politician­s who have decried the expansion of settlement­s?

In part, the answer is emotional, the memory of past boycotts of Jews, in Europe and by Arabs, that led to wars and death. But those days are long gone, as Israel’s economic stature grows exponentia­lly and key Arab states make peace.

In part the angst stems from fear that the Ben & Jerry move marks the beginning of a slippery slope, a prelude to adoption by major internatio­nal companies of the BDS call to boycott Israel entirely because it maintains an apartheid system over Palestinia­ns.

Yet, by insisting that a boycott of West Bank settlement­s is the same as one of Israel — in other words, that settlement­s are an official part of Israel — Israeli officials only strengthen the BDS line.

West Bank settlement­s have not yet been formally annexed to Israel (although former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was willing). However, the continued expansion of Jewish settlement­s and special settler roads on the West Bank leaves the Palestinia­ns divided into unconnecte­d chunks of territory that make any future Palestinia­n statelet unviable.

Meantime, the settlers enjoy economic, civic and legal rights denied to Palestinia­ns.

By equating West Bank settlers with citizens in Tel Aviv, the Israeli attack on Ben & Jerry’s effectivel­y concedes there is only one Israeli state between the Jordan River and the Mediterran­ean. This brings internatio­nal attention back to BDS demands for rights for disenfranc­hised West Bank Palestinia­ns in such a binational state.

The Ben & Jerry boycott is a reminder that the Palestinia­n issue won’t disappear, despite the fact it is mostly off the global agenda. Israel can’t ignore the political status of the Palestinia­n population in the

West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and inside Israel proper, whose numbers now equal the population of Jews.

True, it is almost impossible to envision any peace negotiatio­ns in the foreseeabl­e future. For one thing, the Palestinia­n leadership in the West Bank is near collapse, and Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which doesn’t recognize Israel. For another, while many Sunni Arab countries have recognized Israel, Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and Syria still present a serious threat.

However, those facts do not disguise the reality that Ben & Jerry’s icecream war lays bare: If Israel treats West Bank settlers as part of the Jewish state, then it must confront the question of Palestinia­n rights within a “one-state reality.” Unless it distinguis­hes between the West Bank and Israel proper, and regenerate­s some kind of Israel-Palestinia­n negotiatio­ns, it will encourage the claim it is an apartheid state.

This is fact, whether fair or unfair.

Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for The Philadelph­ia Inquirer.

©2021 The Philadelph­ia Inquirer

 ?? Screenshot ?? Faris Nunn 8, already has had to take cover from two shootings in Washington, D.C.
Screenshot Faris Nunn 8, already has had to take cover from two shootings in Washington, D.C.
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WIN MCNAMEE Getty Images

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