By Charles Pulman
On July 19, 2021, Ben and Jerry’s (B&J) issued a statement (Statement) that “it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).”Thus, B&J announced that its product will not be sold in the OPT and B&J would not renew its license agreement with its long time Israeli licensee.
Although no other explanation or reason was offered for this action, it is clear B&J is embracing fully the genocidal, discriminatory Palestinian-led BDS campaign that seeks to delegitimize, defame and destroy Israel.
In addition, while the Statement did not offer a geographical definition of OPT, it can be assumed that OPT at a minimum means Judea and Samaria (aka West Bank) and East Jerusalem although many Palestinian proponents would argue OPT means all of Israel, as exemplified by the slogan “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.”
Most importantly, the Statement did not offer any explanation of what are the values of B&J and which are being violated.
The B&J website does contain a section on B&J values and mission. Among the values listed are:
a. Human Rights and Dignity: the right of all people to live with liberty, security, self-esteem, and freedom of expression and protest;
b. Social and Economic Justice: achieve equity, opportunity and justice for historically marginalized communities;
c. Voting Rights and Democracy: protect voting rights of all citizens;
d. Criminal Justice Reform: Reform criminal justice systems (including defund the police);
e. LGBTQ+ Rights: support LGBTQ+ justice, rights and equality;
Since the B&J Statement is embracing BDS whose goal is the destruction of Israel with a remaining Palestinian state, I undertook an inquiry into whether the lives of Palestinians now living under Palestinian rule are consistent with B&J stated values.
The following discussion is derived from several written sources published by well-known organizations, including, but not limited to, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Democracy Index, Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, Euro-Palestinian Forum, MEMRI, Amnesty International, Independent Commission for Human Rights, Center for New Middle East, the U.S. State Department and EMET.
These sources analyzed the conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza living under the rule of Fatah, the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.
The findings include the following:
I. Human Rights and Dignity
a. Arbitrary arrests and detentions of people participating in peaceful assembly/protests or engaging critical speech of the government, political opponents, journalists, lawyers, activists, and people posting on social media content disliked by the government;
b. Abuse and torture of detainees, including physical and mental;
c. Extrajudicial killings;
d. Monitoring of university activists and students;
e. Anti-Christian rioting and harassment of Christians;
f. Targeting and destroying institutions linked to Western culture, such as schools, churches and libraries;
g. Attacking and destroying Jewish religious sites;
h. Denying Jewish connections to religious sites;
i. “Pay for Slay” payments to Palestinian terrorists or their families for attacks on Israelis;
j. Absence of Judaism in school textbooks;
k. Schools named after terrorists, Nazi collaborators, and “honor” martyrs;
l. Hate speech in media and inciting violence against Jews;
2. Social and Economic Justice
a. Training children as combatants;
b. “Honor” killings of women, girls and homosexuals;
c. Spousal and child abuse, incest, domestic violence, harassment;
d. Rape of women and girls;
e. Discriminatory laws against women in inheritance, marriage, divorce, employment;
f. Coerced abortions and involuntary sterilizations;
g. Absence of laws protecting rights of women and girls;
h. Lack of accessible transportation and quality care for disabled
3. Voting Rights and Democracy
a. Absence of voting rights and democracy; authoritarian government (last (only) election in 2006);
b. Corruption of governmental officials
4. Criminal Justice Reform
a. Administrative detentions without trial;
b. Trial by military courts with death sentences (including hanging);
c. Executive interference with judiciary;
d. Execution of alleged collaborators;
5. LGBTQ+ Rights
a. Discrimination, harassment, abuse and arrest of LGBTQ+;
b. Criminalization of consensual same-sex activity;
c. Discrimination against HIV and AIDS patients.
B&J alignment with BDS is an implicit endorsement of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas treatment of their own people and the conditions in the Palestinian-ruled areas. As the above list of conditions in the Palestinian-ruled areas shows, the Palestinian people are living in abusive and repressive conditions exacted upon them by authoritarian rulers who violate the basic human and civil rights of their own people.
Either B&J is willfully blind to these conditions, all of which grossly violate the stated “values” of B&J, or B&J is making an exception to its “values” as applied to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas due to the B&J hatred of Israel and Jews, even though Israel, who stands for peace, justice and rule of law, easily meets the B&L “values.”
B&J is hypocritical and duplicitous. In any case, B&J’s true colors are now shown as B&J has not targeted any other country other than Israel. If the current leadership and Board of B&J is not replaced and the Statement retracted entirely soon, B&J should not be supported or defended by U.S. organizations (such as JStreet) and its products not purchased. The current leadership and board of B&J is deeply flawed and bigoted. Many will suffer from this action by B&J, including the innocent retail sellers of the B&J ice cream and their employees, including Palestinian employees in the West Bank.
Dallas attorney Charles D. Pulman is founder and president of Why Israel Matters, Inc.