OpinionBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

An open letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield

Men of ice cream, men of unjust deserts.

Ben & Jerry's Ice-Cream Shop. Credit: Joshua Small Photographer/Shutterstock.
Ben & Jerry's Ice-Cream Shop. Credit: Joshua Small Photographer/Shutterstock.
Clifford D. May
Clifford D. May is the founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), as well as a columnist for “The Washington Times.”

Dear Messrs. Cohen and Greenfield,

Or is it OK if I call you Ben and Jerry? (You can call me Cliff!) So, anyhow, I read your op-ed in The New York Times, headlined, “We’re Ben and Jerry. Men of Ice Cream, Men of Principle,” and I thought you might like—or at least tolerate—a little feedback.

First: You call yourselves supporters of Israel. I don’t doubt it, but you should be aware that the BDS (“boycott, divest and sanction”) movement with which you’re now associated openly seeks Israel’s extermination.

“Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine,” Omar Barghouti, founder and leader of the movement (it’s really an agitprop campaign) has said. “No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”

Perhaps you believe that the Palestinian state Barghouti hopes to see replace the Jewish state would refrain from killing or expelling Jews, and allow them to remain as a minority. But that’s hardly a safe bet considering what’s happened to Jews elsewhere in the region. (You know what I’m talking about, right?) And is there any country in the Middle East (other than Israel) where minorities—Kurds, Baha’i, Druze, Christians, whatever—enjoy even basic rights?

In fact, in Gaza and the areas of the West Bank governed by the Palestinian Authority, selling land to Jews is a crime (one carrying a death penalty), bounties are paid to terrorists who murder Jews (children included) and the educational system demonizes Jews (not just Israeli Jews). None of that is boycott-worthy?

Your second point is that “it’s possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies.” Agreed. The policy you most vociferously oppose is the presence of Israelis in the West Bank. But consider: If Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank, as it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, is it not probable (inevitable?) that the West Bank would become what Gaza has become?

I hope you’re aware that after the Israelis left Gaza—removing every soldier, farmer, synagogue and cemetery—Hamas forcibly drove out Palestinian rivals. Since then, Hamas has ruled the territory. Since then, Hamas, along with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (both backed by the regime in Tehran, which calls Israel a “cancerous tumor”) have been waging war against Israelis utilizing rockets, tunnels, incendiary kites, etc.

Maybe you’ll say that Israelis need to work out a two-state solution. But they’ve tried. Offers were made in 2000, 2001 and 2008, not to mention the 1937 Peel Commission proposal and the 1947 U.N. plan that would have created one state for Palestinian Arabs and one for Palestinian Jews. Those offers were rejected by Palestinian leaders. No counteroffers followed.

It’s been years since Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas has been willing to engage in serious talks with Israelis. He’s currently demanding concessions as a pre-condition for returning to the table.

My theory: At age 85, he’s contemplating his legacy. He wants his portrait hanging next to that of Yasser Arafat not used for target practice—as would happen were he to end his career as a “sell-out Palestinian” shaking the hand of an Israeli leader on the White House lawn.

Other Arab leaders know this. It’s one reason many are no longer unfriendly to Israelis, some even signing the Abraham Accords. A prominent Arab leader (you’d know his name, but the conversation was off the record) told me that he and others are “fed up” with Abbas.

There’s much more you should know but may not. For example, the “occupied territories” were seized by the Israelis from Jordan—not from Palestinians—in the defensive war of 1967. Jordan had conquered that territory, then known as Judea and Samaria, in the 1948 war against Israel. Jordan subsequently renamed it “the West Bank” (for obvious reasons), forcibly expelled all Jews, desecrated Jewish religious sites and prohibited Jews from worshipping at their holiest sites.

Prior to Jordan’s occupation, the West Bank had been ruled by Britain. Before that, for centuries, it was a backwater of the Ottoman Empire.

For these and other reasons, the “occupied territories” are in truth disputed territories—of which the world has many: Western Sahara, Cyprus, Catalonia, Crimea, Tibet and Taiwan among them. Do you think the Uyghurs of Xinjiang would choose to be ruled by Chinese communists?

Unusually and perhaps uniquely, Israelis are willing to give—to say “give back” would be inaccurate—disputed territories to Palestinians in exchange for nothing more than peaceful coexistence. To date, no Palestinian leader has been willing to accept that deal.

You’re encouraging such rejectionism. Your boycott asserts that Jews have no right to live in “Palestinian territories,” which include the ancient Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem.

This is why The Babylon Bee recently ran an article headlined: “Ben & Jerry’s Introduces Fun New Flavor ‘Push the Jews Into the Sea Salt Caramel.’ ” The article adds: “All proceeds will go to Iranian rocket manufacturers to arm noble Hamas mujahideen warriors in their fight to destroy the Jews.”

The Bee is a satirical newspaper, but there’s a double scoop of truth in its recognition that you’re serving Israelis unjust deserts.

Ben and Jerry, one of your flavors is “Half Baked.” If you’re really “men of principle,” you’ll ponder what I’ve said here, and ask yourselves whether your anti-Israeli boycott doesn’t qualify for the same moniker.

Your friend,


Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and a columnist for The Washington Times.

This article was first published in “The Washington Times.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates