Last night Israel was hit by a mid-summer storm. No, not in a teacup, in an ice cream cone. Ben & Jerry, the American (originally Jewish-owned) ice-cream manufacturer made a decision to stop selling its products in the Occupied Territories and East Jerusalem. The decision was made after intensive pressure from various (BDS related) sources and even though Ben a&Jerry is now owned by Unilever, its board has independence as far as social-related decisions are concerned and the decision was made without consulting either the Unilever parent company or the Israeli distributor, who already has announced that he will not comply with the decision.
The Israeli government was up in arms over the decision by B&J and both the Prime Minister Bennett as well as the Foreign Minister Lapid felt it necessary to make strongly worded statements about the announced boycott. One must wonder if they do not have better, more urgent things to do except worrying that the settlers will not be able to enjoy their ice-cream? Of course both are worried about the domino effect this may have even though up to this point there is little evidence that the BDS movement, or an Israeli boycott in general is taking off.
But maybe the Israeli government and its leaders should react strongly to such attempts, even if only ice-cream is involved? The problem lies with the mode of protest. Israel and Israeli leaders, cannot be dissuaded to leave anti-Semitism out any and all actions of the BDS and its affiliates. The boycott that BDS is attempting is against Israel, not against Jews. By throwing in the Anti-Semitism card, Israel is not only devaluating the importance of the fight against anti-Semitism, but also showing the world very clearly that the Occupation cannot be justified, not even by the Occupier itself, and as a last resort Israel falls back on Anti-Semitism, which for many people is a red flag. (As it should be).
Anti-Semitism is a serious problem and many believe it is getting worse world -wide. Reasons given for anti-Semitism are many and widely diverse and include the actions of Israel (including in the Occupied Territories) and it should be (and is) fought in widely diverse places. But by declaring any protest against Israel almost automatically as anti-Semitic, a sense of devaluation creeps in and many people will in the end just sigh and exclaim:” there they are again with their Anti-Semitism”. And that resignation and attitude of “we heard it all before” will affect the real anti-Semitic battles that are out there to be fought.
The only thing Bennett said in response to Ben & Jerry’s announcement that did make sense, it that there are many ice-creams out there. Unilever, who sells various ice-creams in Israel will hardly notice the effect of the boycott decision, (if there is an effect at all) and other companies will most likely just gloat and take up the place of Ben & Jerry in the market very quick.
And the effect it will have on overall sales of B&J ice-cream in Israel? It is hard to tell but there will be those who will decide to buy B&J in particular now because they agree with the attempts of the outside world to make Israel see the error of its ways in the Occupied Territories, while there will also be those that will side with Israel and its policies and stop buying the ice-cream. Will they balance each other out? Hard to tell, and it hardly matters to anybody.
Foreign minister Lapid has vowed to do anything he can to fight the decision by Ben & Jerry and he mentioned that 30 states in the U.S. have anti-BDS laws on the books (which is weird in itself but that is a different story). Will any of those states take action against B&J as a result of the boycott? It appears very unlikely, the more since B&J has stated very clearly that the boycott is not directed at Israel, but at the Occupied Territories only. Lapid would do better to explore the options he has to fight the real Anti-Semitism in the world, which no doubt is a danger and not only for Israel or the Jews. And while he is at it, it wouldn’t hurt to investigate a little bit more seriously the fact that an Israeli company is apparently responsible for the large-scale hacking of communication devices of journalists, human rights activists and business people by the shadiest regimes the world over. While the Israeli government supposedly has control over the sale of equipment like the Pegasus software, the company NSO, either managed to circumvent this control or Israel didn’t mind that Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, among others, enjoyed the fruits of Israeli ingenuity. Talking about giving people a reason to be anti-Semitic………
The anti-Israel lobbies the world over will be licking their fingers. And it is not because they have B&J ice-cream on them.
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