Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Gamzu l'tovah - It's all for the good

Herzog, Ben & Jerry’s and the Tower of Babel

The Ben & Jerry's-flavored Tower of Babel. (Sarah Ben Gedalyahu)
The Ben & Jerry's-flavored Tower of Babel. (Sarah Ben Gedalyahu)

“And the Lord came down to see the …tower which the children of men built…[and] said… [they are] one people and they have all one language…and now nothing will be withholden from them. Let us…confuse their language so that they may not understand one another’s speech [Genesis 11: 5-7].”

President Yitzchak Herzog’s labeling Ben & Jerry’s decision to blacklist half of Israel as a “form of terrorism” places another brick on the modern Tower of Babel, where everything means nothing.

His statement “the boycott against Israel is a new type of terrorism” fudges the meaning of terrorism. His words contribute to a trend of emasculating ideas to the point of their being meaningless.

Too many people have adopted terms such as the Holocaust, Apartheid, “occupation” and, yes, even “anti-Semitism” for their personal needs, making dictionary definitions obsolete.

Paul Samuelson, author of the standard Economics textbook in the mid-1960s, wrote that “money is money because it is money.” In practice, that means a currency is acceptable only because a large number people agree to do so.

The meaning and value of words, like money, ultimately is determined by people,

The 9/11 attacks on The World Trade Center towers were terror. Arab suicide bombings attacks that blew up Israeli and American citizens at restaurants and bus stops were terror. But a boycott?

“An ice cream boycott is not terrorism,” former deputy IDF chief of staff Yair Golan, now a Member of Knesset of the left-wing Meretz party, stated in reaction to President Herzog’s new definition of terror.

Yes, BDS is anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic, but that doesn’t justify the president’s declaration that the Boycott Israel movement is “terrorism” because it “seeks to harm Israeli citizens and the Israeli economy.”

Golan sharply criticized him for “using concepts drawn from the world of violence,” in effect watering down the meaning of terror to include non-violence.

The knee-jerk reaction that everything that harms Israel is “terrorism” parallels the Palestinian Authority’s long-standing scream of “occupation, occupation” whenever terrorists murder Jews, as they did for decades before the “occupation.”

In fact, the Palestinian Authority foreign ministry jumped on President Herzog’s declaration with a statement that “the occupation is terrorism itself. It is the worst kind of terrorism.”

But why not? If supporters of Israel can claim that a boycott is terrorism, it follows that anti-Zionists can call the “occupation” terrorism.

If you are for boycotting Israel, are you necessarily in favor of terrorism? If you support Israel’s presence in all of Jerusalem and in all of Israel-West Bank-Occupied territories, are you really supporting “Apartheid?”

Apartheid is another term that has been emasculated. It was a political system that existed in South Africa in the mid to late 20th century and dictated where people, on the basis of their race, could live, work and learn. Comparing South African Apartheid with political realities in Israel is like comparing the Holocaust concentration camps to the situation of Latin America migrants.

Yet, that is exactly what Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”) did in 2019 when she referred to detention centers at the southern border as “concentration camps.”

The horrors of the Nazi Holocaust against European Jewry lose all meaning when Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, speaking in Congress in 2010 on the bill for universal healthcare, can declare, “I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.”

Similarly, Jews, especially those in the United States who scream “anti-Semitism” every time Israel or a Jewish leader is criticized, fairly or unfairly, water down the the true meaning of the word.

Ben & Jerry’s board chairwomen Anuradha Mittal tweeted in defense of her decision to back the BDS policy on its sales in Israel, ”This action is not anti-Semitic. I am not anti-Semitic.”

Ms. Mittal indeed is not an anti-Semite. She simply is ignorant, like most of the millions who think they are humanitarians when they support the anti-Semitic BDS. That doesn’t mean that anyone who agrees with the BDS policy is an anti-Semite, no more than anyone who is against “equity” or “white privilege” is a racist.

President Herzog inaugurated his term of office with a well-intended but perverse use of the word “terrorism” that only contributes to self-defeating confusion. When people manipulate words, they destroy their meaning.

People may think that they when they use the word “terrorism” it means the same thing to everyone, but more and more this word and many others mean everything to everyone until they mean nothing at all.

We may all be speaking the same language, and more and more it sounds like Babel.

About the Author
Tzvi was born in Baltimore, earned a BA in Public Affairs (journalism) from The George Washington University. He was an investigative reporter for small Virginia newspapers, senior copy editor for Montreal and Edmonton newspapers, op-ed contributor to Vancouver Sun, writer for Arutz Sheva and The Jewish Press. He also was a turkey farmer, tractor driver and fruit picker on kibbutzim and moshavim.
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