Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Hold Thy Fire


I am boycotting Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Given a small bowl at a friend's house decades ago, I realized the product it was overpriced and have been able to avoid it ever since. So I will never eat it again.

But only for that reason. Philadelphia Inquirer foreign affairs columnist Trudy Rubin notes

The ice cream maker, famous for social consciousness and iconic flavors like Chubby Hubby, announced Monday it was ending sales in “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” meaning Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But the announcement stipulated it would still sell ice cream inside Israel (meaning within the pre-1967 borders before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the Six Days War)...

Critics have linked it to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for countries, businesses, and universities to sever all 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....

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.

Ironically

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....

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.

In a case of irony+

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.

Rubin notes that Israeli officials across the political spectrum are united in decrying the Ben and Jerry decision, with Israeli president Herzog even labeling it "a new form of terrorism."

This is not terrorism, which (along with "terror" and "terrorist") is a word (similar to "racist") in recent years stretched far beyond its original meaning. There are many officials at the United Nations eager to minimize terrorism; it's disquieting to see an Israeli politician doing so.

Rubin acknowledges, as we all should, that

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.

The move by Ben and Jerry's, a division of Unilever, is not the end of the world, though if it does slip into approval of BDS, hostility to a loyal American ally and most democratic state in the Middle East will be on full display. (Closing the plant in Jerusalem is slimy, but whatever.)  Unfortunately, Israeli overreaction to cessation of sales in the West Bank and East Jerusalem makes that a little more likely.


 

 


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