Opinion |

Ben & Jerry’s and 'Terrorism'? Lapid and Herzog Are Embarrassing Israel

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
Yair Lapid and Isaac Herzog in December 2014.
Yair Lapid and Isaac Herzog in December 2014.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

I supported Isaac Herzog for president, and not just because he was the better choice. It seemed to me that, after his crucifixion as Zionist Union chairman from 2014 to 2017, when he wanted to enter the Netanyahu government, many people learned to appreciate his talents as a politician, in that word’s positive sense.

He’s businesslike, diligent, unflappable and easy to like. He’s a cunning political operative but within the standard limits. Like most people in the Labor Party, Herzog isn’t some big leftist, certainly not a “professional leftist.”

His approach to the Palestinians isn’t steeped in the romance of the noble savage, whose essence is the elites’ obsession with their own guilt feelings. And his approach isn’t tainted by the deeply rooted racism of the right.

And now, this week he spoke out about the Ben & Jerry’s affair, saying: “The boycott of Israel is a new sort of terrorism, economic terrorism. Terrorism tries to harm the citizens of Israel and the economy of Israel. We must oppose this boycott and terrorism in any form.”

Terrorism, no less. One possibility is that this is what Herzog thinks. Another is that since he put on his president’s suit, he feels the need to make the same movements the other politicians make, which is more or less to clear his throat and cry out like the most robbed Cossack in the village. It’s not clear which of these possibilities is worse.

After all, what did Ben & Jerry’s do? It spoke the truth: The West Bank isn’t part of Israel and the situation there is improper. There are two populations in the West Bank – one without civil rights and one that enjoys the protection and help of the state and even has the strongest political lobby in Israel. Each of these populations has a separate system of laws and courts.

This is a state of occupation – some call it apartheid. Either way, it’s an anomaly that a decent democratic country isn’t supposed to be part of, certainly not for more than 50 years. What’s not clear here?

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is making faces at the CEO of the Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever. I view this gravely, but it’s still somehow possible to ignore – after all, he presents himself as a rightist and once led the Yesha Council of settlements.

But Herzog’s comments and those of the head of the center-left bloc in the government, Yair Lapid, are simply preposterous. In a tweet, Lapid called the move by Ben & Jerry’s a “shameful surrender to antisemitism, to BDS and to all that is wrong with the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish discourse. We will not be silent.”

Both Herzog and Lapid could have left the response on this issue to Bennett – not just “not to get involved” but to reflect their views in the most honest way. These are, to the best of my understanding: opposition to the control over another people and awareness of the heavy price of the occupation, even if this includes fears and doubts about the Palestinians' ability and desire to accept Israel’s existence.

This is a legitimate position, and also an important one: Its threads connect the left and parts of Israeli society whose suffering may be much less than that of the Palestinians but who are also well-versed in terrorism – true terrorism: buses exploding and restaurants where families were murdered. Not the nonsense that Herzog is taking in vain.

When these two are speaking like just another Likudnik who jumped on the bandwagon to scrape something off its base, the question is: What are we really seeing? Right-wingers such as Bezalel Smotrich, who mind their manners and don’t reveal everything? Leftists afraid to look like leftists? Moderates who recognize the disaster of the Gush Emunim settlement movement and messianic Zionism and are simply afraid to say it?

One thing in life that’s less rewarding is to be a pleaser. Lapid has already been there – when he tried to masquerade as a right-winger and irked human rights groups. That didn’t bring him a single vote. He should remember this lesson and take Herzog to class with him.

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