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Open Letter to Ben & Jerry’s: An ice cream boycott doesn’t solve any conflicts, but stirs hate and promotes antisemitism

London, United Kingdom, 17th July 2019, Ben and Jerry's Sign in soho

Dear colleagues at Ben & Jerry’s,

It is with great surprise and dismay that we have learnt of the announcement by Ben & Jerry’s headquarters to stop selling your products in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. We cannot comprehend the decision to boycott Israel in this way. We are especially disappointed that the company is following the line of the antisemitic boycott movement BDS.

This decision supports the argument that on the one hand there is an “evil Israel” and on the other hand only “good, oppressed” Palestinians. Boycott movements demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel and thus spread Israel-related antisemitism. Although boycotters call themselves human rights-oriented, they apply fundamentally different standards to the democratic state of Israel than, for example, to the terrorist regime of Hamas or the corrupt system of Fatah. Both regimes trample on fundamental human rights. They are the very opposite of anything that can be considered progressive or emancipatory. The origins and allies of the boycott movements are, among others, terrorist, Islamist organizations. Their aims accept the eradication of the Jewish state, and their hatred of Jews exists regardless of said Jews’ stance on Israel. This is sheer antisemitism and has nothing to do with any supposed criticism of Israeli government policy. Liberal-left and anti-racist principles are incompatible with this stance. Boycott movements against Israel ignore the virulent antisemitism from different political and social milieus and ignore the situation of Jews worldwide.

Incidentally, a boycott will not lead to anything in Israel. It neither advances the peace process, nor does it make life easier for Palestinians. On the contrary, it deepens tensions and aggression and further hardens the fronts. The boycott of your products – in the West Bank, of all places – shows how little thought is really given to the Arab population. Palestinians, of all people, can no longer buy your ice cream. What’s the point? What use is that to them? What do you wish to achieve with this? Maybe that they should travel to Israel to eat their favourite ice cream? This is absurd and shows how little symbolic politics have in common with the real lives of the Palestinians: It’s a mere symbol that shows little interest in the real problems and desires of the Palestinians.

Hatred is spread under the guise of “criticism of Israel”, poisoning the climate against Jews. Whenever the conflict between Israel and Hamas flares up again, a wave of antisemitic hostility and violence erupts. It affects the Jewish community – not only in Israel, but also in Germany, Europe, the USA and all over the world. In schools and on the streets, at work, on social networks or on buses and trains, Jews are being coerced into justifying Israel’s policies. They are harassed, accosted or attacked. Attacks against Jews, assaults on synagogues and chants with wishes of annihilation are by no means a criticism of Israel’s policy on occupation, but sheer antisemitism. And yet those who fuel this agitation get away with it time and again – with the bogus argument that they are merely targeting Israel’s policies.

All over the world, Jews have suffered from these waves of antisemitism – and they continue to do so. For years now, antisemitism has again been displayed more openly. It’s becoming increasingly aggressive, and disparate groups are uniting over their common denominator: a hatred of Jews. It’s not only the far right: antisemitism also comes from the middle of society, from radical Islamic circles and from so-called critics of Israel on the left. We find it inexcusable to participate in campaigns that promote this development and escalate antisemitism.

We would have liked you to speak out against this, as you do when it comes to attacks against other minorities. That you have instead joined the chorus of those who portray Israel as some great evil, completely oblivious to the overall context of the region’s history and the conflict, is a slap in the face to all who experience antisemitism on a daily basis.

The Amadeu Antonio Foundation has gone on a long, successful journey with you in the fight against right-wing extremism, racism and, indeed, antisemitism. We are therefore all the more disappointed that antisemitism is now not being taken seriously enough.

We won’t let the fight against antisemitism be separated from the fight against other oppressive ideologies! We stand by condemning boycott movements like BDS as antisemitic movements – an analysis also shared by the German Bundestag, by the way.

So if you’re serious about listening to your partners, we’re happy to explain our position to the Board and to the Ben & Jerry’s company. We know that the decision to boycott wasn’t unanimous. We know that there’s also a lot of protest within the company and especially locally about the decision. We’re happy to contribute to the ongoing discussion and hope that you will reverse the de facto boycott decision.

A company that’s committed to human rights cannot at the same time be blind to organizations that act in an antisemitic, racist, homophobic and misogynistic manner. It cannot be the case that antisemitism is tolerated, overlooked or simply defined away via so-called criticism of Israel.

The Amadeu Antonio Foundation does not cooperate with antisemitic groups or activists. A partnership with you is only possible for us if we share these principles.

Under these circumstances, we will therefore halt our cooperation with Ben & Jerry’s.

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

The Amadeu Antonio Foundation Team

 


About the cooperation between the Amadeu Antonio Foundation and Ben & Jerry’s:

During the Ben & Jerry’s summer tour in 2016, the two partners worked together to raise awareness in 11 cities about the situation of refugees in Germany, supporting local projects with volunteer activities by Ben & Jerry’s employees and fans. In 2019/20, together with FC St. Pauli, they set up the “Melting Pott” fund, which has supported more than 40 projects and initiatives that promote a diverse and inclusive society.

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