Truth is not a multiple-choice question.
Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent commendation of a student voicing “her truth” that Israel was guilty of “ethnic genocide” was rewarded by its broadcast on Iranian TV. This is the very same regime that openly seeks to genocide Israel and one that the U.S. is desperately courting to reenter an already failed nuclear deal.
American Jews weren’t mollified by the VP’s damage control, touting her support for Israel. What couldn’t be repaired is the damage done by omission. Ms. Harris could have debunked the big lie of Israel=Apartheid right then and there. Instead, she breathed new legitimacy into a growing subculture of antisemitic hate.
Here’s the truth Jews learned the hard way in the 20th century: Words lead to consequential actions. In the U.S., Jews represent 2% of the population and are the targets of nearly 60% of all hate crimes. Jewish schools and synagogues deploy armed guards. (A court just sentenced the murderer of a Jewish woman at prayer services in Poway, California, to life). At Brandeis, a university originally founded to help Jewish students, 70% have experienced antisemitism, and half hide their Jewish identity on campus.
Natan Sharansky, the great human rights icon, defines contemporary antisemitism into the Three Ds: Double Standard, Delegitimization, Demonization.
“Genocide ethnic cleansing” checks all three Ds.
Which brings us to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream.
The company announced it would cease sales in East Jerusalem and the West Bank to protest “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
There is no doubt that those are disputed territories. There actually may be 150 disputed lands around the world.
Choosing Israel is the ultimate example of a double standard.
Why did Ben and Jerry’s choose to punish only Israel? During their revealing interview with Axios, Ben and Jerry had no answer to why they weren’t boycotting Georgia over its voting laws or Texas over its new abortion rules. The aging hippies may be clueless, but not Anuradha Mittal, the company’s antisemitic, anti-Israel activist board chair, who sought to boycott the entire Jewish State, to give greater legitimacy to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that today fuels antisemitism on our nation’s campuses and seeks to impact board rooms beyond the ice cream maker.
BDS’ anti-peace poison also has infected unions, cities and companies to enact boycotts against their Israeli counterparts. They’ve debased the history of the Jew’s return to Zion into “Israeli colonialism and apartheid.” The people who lost 6 million during the Nazi Holocaust in the 20th century are now declared the Nazis of the 21st Century.
Simon Wiesenthal Center officials were there when this insidious movement was born at the U.N. Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, just before 9/11 in 2001. We witnessed the first chants of “Israel is an Apartheid state” at a gathering of 3,500 NGOs that turned a human rights conclave by Civil Society activists into an ugly antisemitic hatefest.
In its aftermath, we exposed a 10-Year, 8-point plan that included cultural, scientific, sports and academic embargoes, in short, the beginnings of the BDS movement.
Beyond Ben and Jerry’s, BDS’ reach includes:
In New York, the Democratic Socialists of America demanded that its 2021 candidates support BDS and commit not to visit Israel.
In the midst of COVID-19, anti-Israel teachers managed to place BDS resolutions in Los Angeles and San Diego.
In Germany, a top Foreign Ministry official and 900 cultural figures conspired secretly to overturn an anti-BDS resolution. Jewish students continue to suffer antisemitic and anti-Zionist attacks on our nation’s elite campuses spurred on by BDS.
Corporate America supported Black Lives Matter and correctly protested anti-Asian crimes but stayed silent when Jews were violently assaulted in New York and Los Angeles. Their double standard speaks volumes.
That is why Ben and Jerry’s matters. It was never just about ice cream. It’s all about a company’s profits leveraged by an activist antisemite who hates Israel and defends Hamas. It is about the arrogance of executives who forgot their mandate was about selling food, not hypocritical grandstanding to brand Jews as occupiers in their own land, and when violent antisemitism is soaring.
Arizona, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Florida are moving to divest hundreds of millions of dollars from Unilever, Ben and Jerry’s owners. North Carolina and more than two dozen other states are investigating whether their state laws were broken. There are calls for an IRS investigation. Perhaps the potential financial loss will help the parent company locate its moral GPS and reverse this travesty.
Until then, send them all a message — enjoy a pint Haagen-Dazs.
• Rabbi Marvin Hier is the Founder and CEO of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Center’s associate dean and Global Social Action Director.