In attempting to defend itself against persistent bigotry, the Jewish Diaspora repeatedly thinks with its heart, rather than its head, and consequently misses the key point.
After Ben & Jerry’s announced boycott of Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, the company is being boycotted in turn by people who are refusing to consume ice-cream flavored with malice. Such fury and disgust among Israel-supporters is more than justified.
Lawsuits that are being threatened on the grounds that the company will be breaking American anti-boycott laws are timely and useful, and will put Unilever under pressure through an embarrassment it clearly never sought and must be fervently wishing would now disappear.
Nevertheless, this emotional reaction by the Jewish world misses the most important and hard-headed issue: Many people oppose this boycott while nodding along to its premise that Israel is an illegal occupier of the disputed territories and is thus repressing Palestinian human rights.
People oppose boycotts on various grounds, including the fact that they punish ordinary people on all sides. Indeed, some may be making this exact objection to the boycott of Ben & Jerry’s that’s now underway.
And even if they do sympathize with boycotting its tubs of Chunky Monkey or Chubby Hubby, their own attitude to Israel may still be problematic.
Let’s put it this way. Suppose the boycott and lawsuits directed at Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever force the company to resume ice-cream sales in the disputed territories. What then? Residents there will once again be able to buy that product. But does anyone imagine that outcome will get us all very far, even if virulent Israel-basher Anuradha Mittal, chairman of Ben & Jerry’s board, were to get the boot?
Throughout the West, innumerable companies, universities, government bodies, professional organizations, the arts and other cultural institutions are stuffed with people who believe that Israel has no right to exist at all; and they contain even more people who believe that although Israel may have such a right, it routinely deprives the Palestinians of theirs.
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The point about the attack by Ben & Jerry’s, as with all boycotts of Israel, is that the main issue is not the boycott. It’s the thinking behind the boycott.
After all, boycotts are in themselves a reasonable response to despicable behavior, which is why many think that in all conscience, the West should boycott the upcoming Beijing winter Olympics. Not to do so will give a powerful boost to a tyranny that is posing an increasing risk to the world, and will also make the West inadvertently complicit in the internal repression and human-rights outrages being perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party.
The terrible thing, though, is that even some of those who oppose the Ben & Jerry boycott (not to mention the boycotters themselves) think that Israel is similarly despicable. That’s because they’ve swallowed the falsehoods and distortions about Israel that now drive not just the boycott movement but much Western opinion.
They believe that the Palestinians were the indigenous people of the land of Israel who were displaced by the Jews; that there is such a thing in international law as Palestinian land; that Israel is in illegal occupation of some or all of that land; and that it is only Israel that stands in the way of the obvious “two-state” solution to the Middle East conflict.
All these claims are falsehoods and distortions, which have wickedly reframed Israel in much of the Western mind as a regional aggressor identified with injustice and contempt for the rule of law. And yet the Jewish world, including the State of Israel, is noticeably reticent about demonstrating that these claims are the very reverse of the truth.
We should be constantly hammering home to the world the fact that the indigenous people of the land of Israel are the Jews while the Palestinians are the would-be colonizers; that the notion of Palestinian rights to any of that land is a legal and historical fiction; and that Israel liberated the disputed territories from the truly illegal occupation of those lands by Jordan between 1948 and 1967.
We should be constantly hammering home to the world that the Palestinians reveal by their words, actions and insignia that their aim remains the obliteration of Israel; that the “two-state solution” is a convenient untruth by which they dupe the useful idiots of the West; and that it is only Israel that stands for peace, justice and the rule of law.
Given the Palestinian Authority’s repression of its own dissenters, its incitement to murder Israelis and steal their land and its Nazi-themed demonization of the Jewish people, the question that might properly be raised is whether there’s a moral duty to boycott the Palestinians.
But instead of saying any of this, the Jews are mostly divided between those who believe these lies themselves and those who know they are lies but are too terrified to say so.
Until and unless the Jewish world starts properly exposing the falsehoods and demented anti-Semitism that are driving the vilification of Israel, boycotting the boycotters will always leave the defenders of truth, justice and sanity behind this particular murderous curve.