OpinionBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

An open letter to the board of directors of Ben & Jerry’s

Despite any honest and noble intentions that you may have, and whether you intend it or not, you are unavoidably labeling yourselves as an openly anti-Israel company.

Ben & Jerry's Ice-Cream Shop. Credit: Joshua Small Photographer/Shutterstock.
Ben & Jerry's Ice-Cream Shop. Credit: Joshua Small Photographer/Shutterstock.
Alan Baker (JCPA)
Alan Baker
Amb. Alan Baker is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Dear board members,

In today’s ruthless global business environment, your company’s accentuation of social justice causes is impressive. However, your product and branding have now been tainted. The taste of your product becomes sour, its brand integrity flawed and its quality polluted.

To claim that your company and its founders are based on principle and integrity is regrettably misleading. Your decision to end business in “Occupied Palestinian Territory” is based on what you perceive to be the notion that “a majority of the international community, including the United Nations, deems to be an illegal occupation.” But this premise is patently inaccurate and misleading since it relies on non-obligatory U.N. General Assembly resolutions adopted by an automatic and political majority that cannot claim to determine the legality or illegality of Israel’s presence in the territory.

On the contrary, your decision ignores the legally acknowledged fact that Israel and the Palestinians themselves have agreed, in the internationally sanctioned Oslo Accords, to divide the governance of the territories between them, pending completion of their mutual negotiation on the permanent status of the territories. Your determination that the territories are “illegally occupied” and “Palestinian” is simply wrong, and presumes to prejudge the outcome of the agreed-upon negotiation process and predetermine their legal status. As such, your reasoning for ending business in these areas is based on a false premise and runs counter to the Palestinians’ own wishes and legal obligations in the Oslo Accords.

Your additional reason for ending business in the territories, that Israel’s policies “violate basic human rights of the Palestinian people,” is also based on wildly biased and misleading propaganda pushed by curious fringe movements such as “Vermonters for Justice in Palestine,” Oakland Institute and others that appear to be manipulating your decisions. Such elements openly peddle irresponsible, one-sided and misleading propaganda on the spurious assumption that ending Israel’s occupation—or Israel’s very existence—will, in and of itself, bring about peace.

They choose to ignore the realities of the situation in the Middle East and the extent and volume of Palestinian terror and violence directed against Israel’s civilian population, including the indiscriminate firing of rockets and launching of incendiary balloons into Israeli territory.

Above all, one might have expected that Ben & Jerry’s would take into account that any progress toward peace between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples can come about only as a result of bona fide negotiation between them. Peace cannot be advanced through adhering to the irresponsible directives of the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, whose aims are the undermining of Israel’s very existence. It cannot be advanced through a one-sided, discriminatory commercial boycott that achieves nothing more than to send an encouraging message to the Palestinian leadership by proffering support for their continuing hostility and intransigence.

Your action will not advance peace by one iota by permitting yourself to be manipulated. You are not only depriving a population of a product, you are also threatening the livelihood of loyal and devoted workers, mostly from immigrant families as well as from among the Palestinian population of Israel and the territories.

Despite any honest and noble intentions that you may have, and whether you intend it or not, you are unavoidably labeling yourselves as an openly anti-Israel company. The actions you are taking are distinctly and solely directed against Israel and as such are inherently discriminatory. They do not represent the realization of similar values vis-à-vis other countries to which you supply your product, countries that have serious human rights records.

Through such discrimination and singling out of Israel, you are allowing yourselves, possibly unintentionally, to be perceived by the many elements in international society that harbor a strong hostility towards Israel and the Jewish people, as meriting the regrettable and ugly blemish of anti-Semitism.


Alan Baker

Alan Baker is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.

This article was first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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