When the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was hatched at the notorious Durban Conference in 2001, Israel’s Gross Domestic Product, a good gauge of a country’s economic health, stood at $130.8 billion.

Twenty years later, Israel’s estimated GDP for 2021 will be $446.7 billion. That’s a 242% increase in the country’s GDP – even as BDS founder Omar Barghouti and groups like Vermonters for Justice in Palestine were waging a battle to boycott Israel.

Israel’s exports ballooned during this corresponding period by some 260%, and foreign investment in Israeli companies tripled.

All this happened despite the BDS movement registering small victories from time to time: divestment by a Scandinavian pension fund, the boycott of Israeli universities by certain academics, the refusal by some musicians to play in Israel.

While each of those small victories stung in their own way, they were like mosquito bites: they itch temporarily but do not affect the overall health of the body. Israel in 2021 is flourishing economically in ways it never dreamed of in 2001.

So why did Ben & Jerry’s decision this week to stop selling its ice cream in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and in Efrat, Ma’aleh Adumim and other locations beyond the Green Line cause such a fuss? Because it stings, it aggravates, and it brings up painful historical memories.

It stings in a wake-up-call kind of way because it shows just how shallow the understanding of this conflict is among those who see themselves as progressive, yet who view the situation here through a completely binary lens.

Not only does Ben & Jerry’s ignore historical facts by calling Judea and Samaria “Occupied Palestinian territory” – since the territories were never a part of any entity called Palestine and should be termed “disputed” territories – but they are “punishing” only one side in a conflict that reasonable people understand is not the fault of that side only. It stings when you are blamed completely, while the other side, which has not exactly acted over the years like Mother Teresa, is entirely absolved.

The virtue-signaling announcement of the very woke, Vermont-based brand aggravates because of the utter hypocrisy. This move is meant to signal that the ice cream company cares about human rights, yet it is giving back wind to a movement whose ultimate goal is the dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state, thereby denying Jews their basic right of self-determination.

And the announcement is painful because it conjures up times in the past when Jewish businesses were targeted for reasons that the boycotters believed were right and just, followed in short order by the banning and then the burning of Jews themselves. This is not to make any comparison whatsoever between a US ice cream company and Medieval Europe or Nazi Germany, but rather to explain why this move triggered such anger among Israelis of all political stripes.

Disagree with us? Yes. But boycott us? The Jewish historic experience has shown that never ends well.

Those who argue that Ben & Jerry’s is not boycotting Israel but only the settlements are fooling themselves. The chairwoman of Ben and Jerry’s board, Anuradha Mittal, expressed displeasure that its parent company Unilever said the ice cream would continue to be sold in Israel, just not in the “Occupied Palestinian territories.”

It is also worth noting what Facebook user Dalia Masad wrote in response to the announcement Ben & Jerry’s placed on its Facebook page: “Thank you and we Palestinians hope more companies will boycott the Apartheid state. We deserve equality, freedom, and justice in the whole of our homeland from the river to the sea.”

That’s what this is about. It’s not about not being able to buy Cherry Garcia ice cream in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood and ending a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria – it’s about dismantling the Jewish state from “the river to the sea.”

This is why Ben & Jerry’s action has to be taken seriously and combated strenuously. 

Yes, it’s only ice cream – and no, a Ben & Jerry’s boycott will not significantly hurt Israel’s economy. But what it does do is legitimize those who want to de-legitimize Israel and call into question its right to exist within any borders: something that Jerusalem must fight with all means at its disposal. 


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