They Took Their Ice Cream Away

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A Ben & Jerry's parlor in Yavneh.
A Ben & Jerry's parlor in Yavneh.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid are distorting the facts, conjuring a red herring. In contrast to their cries of dismay, Ben & Jerry’s is not boycotting Israel. The ice cream company has not decided “to brand itself as an anti-Israeli ice cream,” as Bennett claimed, and it definitely isn’t committing “a shameful surrender to antisemitism,” as stated by Lapid. Ben & Jerry’s is boycotting the occupation. Not Israel, only the settlements.

Bennett and Lapid’s crocodile tears reveal how deeply entrenched the settlements are, having become part of Israel’s mainstream. With what ease the equation of Israel and the territories is now accepted. Israelis have simply forgotten about the occupation, but the world hasn’t forgotten and will continue to remember.

The reactions in Israel reveal a hysterical and childish political leadership. Never mind the settlers, a pampered group knowing no limits or satiety, which was forced to face a mirror and see its unflattering countenance. But the settlers, it turns out, are not alone. Economy Minister Orna Barbivai posted an embarrassing video clip in which she takes a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream out of the freezer and throws it in the garbage. MK (and millionaire) Nir Barkat (Likud) proved that there is not enough money in the world to cure inanity, by tweeting that “Jews have the right to eat ice cream anywhere in the world, particularly in the land of our forefathers.”

An attitude like Barkat’s, or words such as Lapid’s, are a total cheapening of antisemitism that does an injustice to its true victims today and throughout history. The idea that the same term is used to describe the horrors of the Holocaust, pogroms and hate crimes directed at Jews just for being Jews, and for describing the legitimate opposition to the right of settlers to lick American ice cream on occupied land evokes revulsion and shame.

Ben & Jerry’s decision is a legitimate one. It is even a desirable move for anyone wishing to see an end to the occupation. It does not constitute antisemitism, no matter how much “Yad Vashem pathos” is recruited in order to present it as such.

Instead of demeaning oneself on social media with inane statements, posting ludicrous images and waging wars against ice cream parlors, Bennett and Lapid’s task is to advance a diplomatic solution to the most painful and burning issue on Israel’s agenda.

The more they refuse to recognize this destructive reality, the more that reality will repeatedly remind them – by boycotts such as that of Ben & Jerry’s among other ways – that millions of Palestinians have been living under Israel’s military rule for 54 years, with no state or citizenship. Bennett and Lapid, it’s time to grow up and take action.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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