Lessons from our licking of Ben & Jerry’s


A great victory has been declared over BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement whose aim is the destruction of Israel.

Last summer, the Unilever-owned company Ben & Jerry’s said it would stop selling its ice-cream in “occupied Palestinian territory,” as those sales were “inconsistent with our values.”

Now Unilever says that it sold Ben & Jerry’s Israeli interests to Avi Zinger, the licensee who has made and sold its product in Israel and the disputed territories for the past 34 years.

Under pressure from the Ben & Jerry’s board last year, Unilever terminated Zinger’s license. Now the ice-cream will continue to be sold across Israel and the disputed territories under its Hebrew and Arabic names, although not under its English branding.

This is a neat win-win outcome. Jews and Arabs throughout Israel and the disputed territories will continue to enjoy Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia and the rest of the uniquely named varieties. Unilever will no longer have to deal with any further Israeli issues over Ben & Jerry’s that might threaten its reputation and profits.

It shows what can be achieved when there’s a backlash against anti-Israel bigotry. Arizona and Illinois had divested their pension funds from Unilever; other states threatened to follow; Zinger and a number of Unilever shareholders had filed lawsuits against the corporate giant over the issue.

Unilever said this week that it was proud of its business ventures in Israel, that it “rejects completely and repudiates unequivocally any form of discrimination or intolerance,” and that anti-Semitism had “no place in any society.”

But Ben & Jerry’s still threatens to undermine Unilever’s attempts at political neutrality. Although the company is a wholly-owned Unilever subsidiary, it maintains an independent board focused on its “social mission.” This consists of supporting far-left causes around the world. And its hate-mongering against Israel continues.

• • •

Jewish Insider recently reported that Ben & Jerry’s was requiring all new employees to watch four videos on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. These included one featuring Omar Shakir of Human Rights Watch, who was expelled by Israel in 2019 over his support for boycotting Jewish-owned businesses in the disputed territories.

In response, Ben & Jerry’s said that staff members weren’t compelled to watch any videos, but it confirmed that last year Shakir gave an optional “lunch and learn” talk about the conflict. In part of the video of that talk published by Jewish Insider, Shakir accused Israel of policies aimed at forcing Palestinians from their homes in “Occupied East Jerusalem” and moving Gaza’s population “off Israel’s demographic balance sheet.”

What all this shows is that arson cannot be fought by merely putting out the peripheral fires caused by sparks from the main blaze. The priority must be to tackle the source of the conflagration — and the people who started it.

The source of anti-Israel bigotry is the narrative about the Middle East that is deemed to be unchallengeably true, even though it is in fact based entirely on lies. And this narrative is even believed by some of Israel’s friends.

Israel has a clear and effective strategy for dealing with its declared enemies because it can see exactly who they are and the perfidious agenda they promote.

More insidious, and far more difficult to deal with, is the set of false beliefs about the Middle East conflict—that the Palestinians have a just cause, that there is such a thing as “Palestinian territory,” and that this territory is occupied.

Every part of this is untrue. There has never been any “Palestinian territory,” and the “West Bank” has been a legal no-man’s land ever since Israel was created.

The claim that it is “occupied” by Israel rests upon a willful misinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions. And far from being “just,” the Palestinian cause is based on a fictional historic Palestinian identity constructed solely with the aim of exterminating Israel and denying the truth that it is the historic national homeland of the Jewish people.

These falsehoods are rarely challenged. Many have no idea that they are false because they have never been told the real facts.

Israel itself chooses not to address these lies upfront. Diaspora Jews are either too timid or too ignorant to do so. With no strategy to reclaim the public sphere for fundamental realities, these big lies have accrued the status of unchallengeable truth.

The fact that even some of Israel’s supporters may not understand they are false has sown a profound moral and intellectual confusion throughout the West, which has undermined Israel by directly playing into the hands of its visible foes.

An example of this is the British government, which under Prime Minster Boris Johnson is one of the most pro-Israel administrations in living memory. And yet, even these supportive politicians seem not to be aware of the contradictions and double standards in the way Britain approaches Israel and other world affairs.

• • •

In an article this week for the Telegraph about the war against Ukraine, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote that there could be no negotiated settlement that replicated the Minsk Agreement, which had undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.

“Those who propose sacrificing Ukraine’s land,” they wrote, “are actually proposing paying in Ukrainian blood for the illusion of peace. It will be a mirage unless accompanied by the restitution of Ukrainian territory and the containment of Putin’s imperialism.”

There’s an obvious analogy here with Israel. The Oslo Accords and the “peace process” undermined Israel’s sovereignty, security and territorial integrity. The proposed Palestinian state would involve sacrificing land to which only the Jewish people has any legal, historical or moral claim.

Those who support the Palestinian cause actually endorse paying in Israeli blood for the illusion of peace. This will remain a mirage unless it is based upon law, justice and the containment of Palestinian Arab imperialism.

And yet the Foreign Office that Liz Truss leads continues to champion the Palestinian cause, promote the “peace process” and accuse Israel falsely of being in illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his supporters in the West invert reality over the war in Ukraine by claiming grotesquely that NATO is the aggressor and that Putin had no choice but to attack.

Such mind-bending assertions that black is white were, of course, the standard brainwashing tactic of the former Soviet regime. It is no coincidence that this also characterizes the Palestinian fantasy narrative, which was cooked up in the 1960s between the Palestinian terrorist leader Yasser Arafat and his allies in the Soviet Union.

One person who really does get all this is the former American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. In a passionate speech last week to the Hudson Institute, he urged the West to stand firm over Ukraine in order to defeat the alliance between Russia and China that aimed to defeat the West.

And he said America must help build “the three lighthouses for liberty” that should be “centered on nations that have great strife: Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.” These could become the “hubs of new security architecture that links alliances of free nations” across the world.

In other words, Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan were the outliers of Western freedom. If they should ever go down, the West goes down.

From Ben & Jerry’s in Israel to Ukraine and Taiwan, evil can be defeated provided it is fought. As Pompeo said, that requires dauntlessness, a seriousness of purpose and the will to win. It also requires a clear-eyed understanding of exactly who and what we are up against.

Unless this is explained and understood, Israel and its allies will continue to rush around dousing small blazes while the conflagration which has sparked them roars on unabated.