Eugene Korn
Eugene Korn

Dear Anuradha, I’d love to hear more about your moral principles

Given your public support for BDS, it seems your problem is not with the territories, it’s with Tel Aviv
Montage: Anuradha Mittal (Courtesy) / Ben & Jerry's (Times of Israel)
Montage: Anuradha Mittal (Courtesy) / Ben & Jerry's (Times of Israel)

Ms. Anuradha Mittal
Chair, Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors

Dear Anuradha,

After you decided that Ben and Jerry’s would no longer sell its ice cream to Israelis in settlements, you claimed “I am not anti-Semitic”.  I’m glad to hear that, since even one less anti-Semite in the world is a positive development for morality, social justice and human rights. The hatred of Jews—or anyone—is a really vile characteristic. And I’m sure you are sincere. With so much hypocrisy in the world today, it’s good to see someone who is fair, consistent and willing to sacrifice for her principles.

But you need to help me because I am having a hard time understanding your disclaimer in light of some facts. Of course, I don’t know what is in your heart. I can only judge you on your statements, the campaigns you identify with, and where you choose to put your money. I’m a bit befuddled now, but I am sure you can explain your moral high principle when you publicly opposed a congressional resolution condemning anti-Semitism

You frequently tweet support for BDS against all of Israel – not just its policies in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” So it seems your problem is not with the territories, it’s with Tel Aviv. And what has BDS really accomplished anyway? Not a whit for Palestinians, but it sure has stirred up a lot of hatred against Jews and Israel. Even the founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, Bassam Eid, knows this, telling the Ottawa Citizen, “Of course BDS is anti-Semitic. There is no doubt about it. It is because it’s anti-Semitic that the campaign has such energy around it.”

Israel’s neighbor, Syria, seems to have escaped your admirable moral outrage. Its murderous dictator Bashar Assad has killed more than 130,000 Syrian civilians including 19,000 children. He has also created more than 7 million refugees.

Your keen moral antennae also seem to have missed Turkey’s invasion and entrenched occupation of Cyprus since 1974.

Ben and Jerry’s board doesn’t seem to object to Iran, which executes gays as a matter of policy.

You also seem oblivious to the horrific human rights violations in China. The government there is herding more than 1 million Uyghurs into detention camps where torture is common. This doesn’t seem to weigh on your conscience. But I understand. How could Ben and Jerry’s forgo the large Chinese market anyway?

You also seem unconcerned that Pakistan engages in systemic economic discrimination against women and tolerates the 1,000 honor killings of women that occurred last year. No problem with Pakistanis enjoying Chunky Monkey.

Nor are you bothered by your country, India, where a woman is raped every 29 minutes. You don’t regard India as irredeemably illegitimate, even though its creation in 1948 displaced 5 million Muslims from their homes and their land. It’s only the creation of Israel that is “a catastrophe”.

Evidently, you see nothing to protest in Lebanon either, where the government denies citizenship to 400,000 Palestinians and legally bars them from owning land or getting high-level jobs. I guess Lebanon doesn’t meet your standard of apartheid.

And you express no outrage at Hamas, which has driven 2 out of every 3 Christian Palestinians out of Gaza since it took over in 2005.

Nor has your sensitive conscience been disturbed by the Palestinian Authority, which denies free speech, dissent and basic human rights to Palestinians in the West Bank.

No, you don’t single out any of these countries for boycotts, retaliation, or condemnation. It’s only the one Jewish State that you and your Oakland Institute consider intrinsically illegitimate and born in sin. And it is only Israelis who are so irreversibly evil that selling them Cherry Garcia would be a moral wrong.

All this evidence could lead someone to infer that your selective hostility to the sole Jewish State is really not about principled justice, morality or human rights. And it doesn’t seem to be about aiding victims of oppression either.

It’s not even about helping the Palestinians.

It’s about the Jews.

Some could see that as anti-Semitism. So give me a little help on this. The world needs more understanding of your motives and your finely tuned moral principles.

Most sincerely,

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn is the former Academic Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding in Jerusalem, and senior research fellow at Bet Morasha of Jerusalem’s Institute for Religion and Society. His forthcoming book, "To Be a Holy People: Jewish Tradition and Ethical Values" will appear in 2021.
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