Sandy Wasserman
Sandy Wasserman

Ben and Jerry’s: It’s NOT Just About Ice Cream!

Boasting over 54 flavors of ice cream! Pretty good record for Ben and Jerry’s; guess they thought a cool diversion would be a BDS campaign during a summer of Olympic fever and confusion, and with Covid still hanging around on planet Earth. But the diversion was just that, a subterfuge for BDS. For hate and intolerance. For scapegoating and continuing on with the whiff of the oldest hatred on earth- anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Israel action.

Soon after the Ben & Jerry’s news broke, the rabbi of my Conservative synagogue addressed us in his weekly email regarding the issue which many of us had been following for a few days, as did many other rabbis and community leaders. Probably more than 54. Some people may have thought it just a small thing because, after all, it was only about ice cream, and who cares that much about ice cream brands.

Of course BDS is about much more than ice cream. It’s a mind set that Israel’s detractors hope to play upon over and over, affecting academia, scholarship, tourism, commerce, medicine, all scientific pursuits. The detractors hope to attract people to Boycott, Divest and Sanction, to reach the hearts of those who identify with the downtrodden, no matter if lies are employed or misinformation.

The Jewish people have historically made lemonade out of lemons using humor, with a record of more successful comedians than any other religion or ethnicity. Through books, movies, and plays we’ve laughed at pogroms, the Inquisition, even Hitler. We’ve laughed at ourselves, with the famous ‘two Jews, three synagogues’ routines. Historically, only through humor have we managed not to cry.

But when seeking jokes about BDS, there’s really not much out there. I found only this one and it’s a poor joke, and not what any Israeli or Jewish American sees as a peace initiative. Because BDS is not a joke.

“A Rabbi is walking down the street in New York when he is shocked by a sign hanging in front of a building.The sign reads, “WE WOULD RATHER DO BUSINESS WITH 1000 HAMAS TERRORISTS THAN WITH ONE SINGLE ISRAELI” Enraged, the Rabbi walks up to the building to go inside and yell at the owners, but he is stopped by a smaller sign saying, “THE CHEVRA KADISHA (Hebrew Burial Society).” … Did you get it? Bad joke. Not funny at all.

REGARDING Ben & Jerry’s ICE CREAM:

The product is no longer connected to its originators, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, two liberal VT guys who became millionaires as a result of the success of the ice cream. Bought by Nestle first, but no longer owned by Nestle; it’s now owned by Unilever since 2019. Its Board of Directors claim to be social justice warriors; one one of them even defends Hezbollah and even supports the idea of US support for Hamas. Which the US has on its ‘terror list.’  [That’s social justice? Guessing by now, if you are eating ice cream you may be choking, cuz you may not have known this.] And you know what the goals are of these terrorist groups: the ultimate destruction of the Jewish state! NOTE: As recent as today, Tuesday, July 27th, B&J Board Chairman insists she is not anti-Semitic yet she will not withdraw her stand on the controversy: https://www.timesofisrael.com/i-am-not-anti-semitic-says-ben-jerrys-board-chair-amid-boycott-controversy/

Some have already posted they have sold their Unilever stock. Great move!

The ice cream part as their campaign; it’s a clever subterfuge.

‘Boycott’ then ‘sanction.’’ Maybe they’d work on the ’divest’ part later- in which BDS attempts to encourage universities and pension funds to divest, subtly and not so subtly, so that investments no longer connect to Israeli companies. You know, those very successful high tech items often developed in Israel, ones we love. Ironic, isn’t it though, since even Hamas and Hezbollah extremists are the happy users of so much of this advanced Israeli technology.

BIT OF HISTORY: Who coined the term BDS?  

Omar Barghouti. He’s an Egyptian, born in Qatar who then decided to call himself a Palestinian. He’s part of a wealthy, politically connected Arab clan that includes two cousins active in explicit anti-Israel terrorism. He has written books which deny ancient Jewish claims to the land. For decades he’s repudiated international law which gave sovereignty to Israel. He’s ignored multiple Israeli offers to share peace within the land. He believes Jews in Israel never had any rights to collective self-determination. He has often stated that: “no Palestinian can ever accept a Jewish state.”

BDS in the US: It’s illegal in five states so far: NY, NJ, ILL, FL and TX.

ARTICLE. https://www.timesofisrael.com/five-us-states-take-aim-at-ben-jerrys-over-settlement-boycott/ Why isn’t this in mainstream media? Many have the same question. So please do your part to see that others are informed. The laws are on the books.

BRIEF INTERLUDE: ACTIVISM against BDS that you can do, right now:

CREDIT: FB post image
  • For the month of August DO NOT BUY B&J. CHOOSE other non-Unilever brands of ice cream and enjoy. Wherever you live, collect and save the container lids of those other ice creams. Then send those clean lids to B&J. Let them see that you have put your money where your mouth is. There are probably at least 54 other ice cream companies to choose from as a substitute. You can do it! And by the way, Unilever has over 400 brands of other foods. Way more than B&J with its 54 flavors of ice cream. Perhaps also let Unilever know that you wish they’d rethink hiring ant-Semitic and anti-Israel folks, and also that social justice is not served if the history behind any of its social justice items isn’t thought through fairly. Or accurately or without misinformation.
  • The organization behind this ‘collect the ice cream lids’ initiative is AJYP. The Alliance of Jewish Youth Professionals. How to participate: YOU or someone in each community needs to register and ‘be the spark.’ Here’s the link with all the details for yourself and your community: http://ajyp.org/bj/location/?fbclid=IwAR3YDnAMDLpXh5TTD4UOB-q0oCviS-Ar2LD6B2qYobHVTwaj0X7VzXuoUqY 
  • HOW to do it?  It’s EASY: Collect clean ice cream lids. No B&J or other Unilever ice cream brands! Mail the lids by Sept 5th. Lids don’t weigh much, just mail them away. It can be your community’s project against BDS. The initiative ends just in time for the Jewish holidays… But you don’t have to be Jewish to do this or to say “NO!” to BDS!

IMPORTANT FACTS:

Are all Palestinians like this? Like Barghouti? No, not at all, and that’s the crux of the issue! Barghouti was denied a visa to visit the US in 2017, which incensed him. He’s also guilty of tax evasion. Many Palestinians want to live in peace, and work side by side with Israelis, quietly without fanfare. They do so at B&J/Israel, and that’s what started this whole ‘balagan”’ [That’s Hebrew for ‘crazy unfair crisis.’] In Israel, many Palestinians  partner with Israelis in business ventures. Just a few years ago there was a similar issue with the Soda Stream company, and Palestinians lost their jobs due to a BDS boycott. The BDS movement is hoping American social justice warriors don’t know this, won’t learn this. This time, they are counting on the American-ice-cream-eating-public, Jews and non-Jews alike, remaining ignorant.

Barghouti? He wrote a book about his new vision and coined the term BDS.

Its goals? To attract the uninformed and appeal to their emotional side. His hope is not a two-state-solution. He wants ‘from-the-river-to-the-sea’ to be a Palestinian state. That’s what BDS is all about- appealing to the uninformed, hoping to gain their support, even if the information offered is untrue.

Throughout the ‘Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream saga’ balagan we saw various forms of push back. Some were suggesting to merely ‘buy other ice creams,’ while others posted memes of a B&J container, with various creative humorous illustrations which relieved the anger and frustration, but were not really addressing the problem. Because yes, anti-Semitism is a real problem, and can’t be solved with self deprecating laughter. And anti-Israel behavior is anti-Semitic behavior.

Note: Nobody considers B&J, or its parent company Unilever, to be anti-Semitic. But if Unilever does not take a stand, and falls into the trap of agreeing with anti-Semitic policies of BDS, well then… You know the old Duck Test joke: “If it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck…”

BESIDES ANTI-SEMITISM, WHAT ARE OTHER ISSUES WITH BDS?

The very people who gleefully took up the B&J banner to boycott have no clue as to how Palestinians are hurt by this boycott, These are the very people – the Palestinians – whom uber-liberal warriors claim to want to assist with BDS actions! Ironic huh! THAT, is the very nature of ignorance.

IS ANYONE AWARE OF WHOM BDS HURTS? Author and Israeli ‘left wing’ actress and educator, Noa Tishby, knows what’s going on.

Credit: FB image

She explains it well in a short video she posted on Instagram. Ironic too, considering she is on the ‘left,’ pointing out the ignorance of those who on the American left and support BDS blindly.  Those who lose the most from such a boycott would not be American uber liberals who foolishly chatter on about BDS. They know little about the Palestinian families who work at the B&J plants! Her video; watch and listen: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CRhhApdJNBw/?utm_medium=copy_link 

ALSO IN THE SAGA OF THE B&J SAGA: Suddenly there was an announcement by Susannah Levin, a 21-year-veteran graphic designer at Ben & Jerry’s.

CREDIT: FB image

She decided to ‘put her money where her mouth is.’ She quit! She just could not go along with the charade any longer that B&J in VT was just being another VT do-gooder company. Their actions were anti-Semitic, and she could no longer live with it, and continue working for the company. First, she brought it to the company’s attention; they did nothing, leaving their boycott in place, so she quit. BIG TIME chutzpadik move. [Chutzpah= extraordinarily ‘cheeky’ and wonderful.] After her decisive move, she went public with all of this. Her interview, being true to herself. Watch/listen: https://www.facebook.com/StandWithUs/videos/184953040203232

NOTE: In the interview, Levin refers to Bassem Eid, and she speaks his name quickly. If you are unfamiliar with him, he is a Palestinian who has supported Israel for years. He does not support BDS or Barghouti. Now 63, he founded the Human Rights Monitoring Group in 1996 and works as a political analyst for Israeli tv and radio. He lives in East Jerusalem. Here is Bassem’s Tweet when the B&J issue first arose. SCREENSHOT OF BASSEM EID’S TWEET

CREDIT: Bassem Eid’s Tweet

In addition, here is Bassem Eid’s article: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/ben-and-jerrys-boycott-hurts-palestinians/

CREDIT: FB image

Oh and yes! Here we have our OWN ‘real’ social justice warrior! You may not know him but he is our own Congressman – Democrat, Ritchie Torres, New York City’s youngest elected official [representing District 15 in the Bronx ] and the first Afro-Latino, LGBTQ member of Congress. Not only does he not support  BDS; but he’s progressive AND he does support Israel! WATCH and LISTEN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIbXJsgKU3Q

Congressman Torres was also a guest on Sunday, July 26th at an interview with Israel’s Acting Consul  General, Israel Nitzan, talking specifically about B&J and BDS. Yes, Congressman Torres stands with Israel.
Summing up the issue is Israel’s Acting Consul General, Israel Nitzan:

Ben and Jerry’s likes to brand itself as a social justice company with flavors like “JusticeReMix’d” & “Empower Mint,” but when it comes to promoting social equality and diversity in Israel, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Here’s what we mean: Ben & Jerry’s Israel buys the majority of its milk from local Israeli farmers. Shutting down the factory would hurt the farmers and their families.

Most of the workers at the Ben & Jerry’s Israel factory, live in or near the Gaza Envelope. They live under constant rocket fire from Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza & are one of Israel’s most vulnerable populations.

The Israeli factory employs Jews & Arabs, Ethiopians, Ultra-Orthodox, refugees & other minorities, a symbol of diversity and tolerance. Closing the factory down will not promote social justice. It will impede social justice.

Ben & Jerry’s Israel funds multiple programs which bring Jews & Arabs together and empower some of Israel’s weakest communities. These programs will end if the factory closes.

In short, if you actually care about social justice & tolerance, join us in supporting Ben & Jerry’s Israel & asking Ben & Jerry’s to stand by their commitment in creating an equal & tolerant society for all.

Take a look at these photos. Do these B&J/Israel employees look unhappy? Note they are mostly brown and black people. They are Israelis, Palestinians, Ethiopians. Congressman Ritchie Torres understands how foolish this boycott is. Was this just a BDS stunt? BDS has a cruel, anti-peace agenda. It is NOT a social justice agenda.

Credit: FB: Employees at B&J/Israel
Credit: FB: Employees at B&J/Israel

FOR YOU! EASY ACTION ITEMS, which you can do and share: 

  • Please post/share Susannah Levin’s video link. So others understand the issue more fully and learn about BDS. History has taught us that bystanders are really complicit.
  • Don’t buy B&J ice cream. Perhaps the parent company will change their position, so ask, but if the company’s administrators support Hezbollah and Hamas, that’s rather doubtful.
  • Wherever you live, initiate the lid collection of OTHER BRANDS of ice cream container covers, and send them to B&J. Let UNILEVER see that you too, have put your money where your mouth is and can make alternate choices. No B&J or Unilever ice cream is going into your mouth. PARTICIPATE IN THE AJYP initiative.
  • And one more thing… while you are eating any other ice cream, take another few minutes to read this terrific article by Daniel Gordis about this B&J moment and what it really means. https://danielgordis.substack.com/p/the-bearable-heaviness-of-being-alone

Happy NON BDS ICE CREAM EATING!

About the Author
Sandy Wasserman is a wife, mother, grandmother- LOVER of Israel and all things Jewish! She is a retired teacher and children's author.
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