Column: Ben & Jerry’s Creates A Drip…A Monstrous Drip

Omar Shakir should forget the popular refrain, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.”

He screameth way too loud when he declares the Ben & Jerry’s sale another grand victory for the Palestinians. It is one more humiliating loss that the Palestinians have suffered. It is devastating enough to inspire another Nakba Day.

June 29, 2022. The day that Unilever sold its Ben & Jerry’s wing in Israel that will allow B&J ice cream to be sold within Israel and its territories. The British conglomerate said it was selling its subsidiary’s wing in Israel to Avi Zinger, the ice cream maker’s longtime partner there, and Zinger would continue to sell the ice cream in both Israel and the West Bank, according to The New York Times.

The only difference: The ice cream will have Hebrew and Arabic labels rather than English, Zinger told the Times.

Eleven months ago: Ben & Jerry’s announced it would cease selling its products in the West Bank which in turn generated pressure against Unilever to overrule Ben & Jerry’s, its subsidiary.

Unilever bought the Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 in an agreement that allows B&J’s independent board to make decisions on social issues while Unilever maintains responsibility for financial and operational decisions. B&J was created by two Jewish buddies from Long Island who operated the company in the Burlington area.

The conglomerate was accused of antisemitism for refusing to sell the ice cream to Israelis living in the West Bank, according to the Times.

That’s where Omar Shakir misinterpreted the outcome: “Ben & Jerry’s won’t be doing business in illegal settlements. What comes next may look and taste similar, without Ben & Jerry’s recognized social justice values, it’s just a pint of ice cream.”

Shakir is Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.

Of course, whenever we devour ice cream we are obsessed with “social justice values.” Maybe it takes one taste of ice cream for some of us to think about “social justice values.” Never do we think of such values until we are dripping in ice cream.

You lost, Shakir. All activists for the Palestinians lost this round. The Ben & Jerry’s board intended to deprive West Bank Israelis of the popular ice cream brand, and now the Unilever sale makes it possible for all Israelis to avail themselves of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

You have experienced a Nakba in your own lifetime, as Nakba is your word for a catastrophe. Your friends planned an economic tactic to alert Israelis that it is inevitable the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign will damage Israel’s economy.

Ben & Jerry’s will be doing business in Israel’s territories, “illegal settlements” or not. It does not just look and taste similar, and it’s not “just a pint of ice cream.” It is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

The entire saga was kind of strange since Ben & Jerry’s risked losing more than Israel – first the income from Israeli ice cream fans and then anyone else who retaliates by boycotting B&J’s in America. The move reflected the board’s sense of nobility by going the limit to aid who they think is the underdog.

The Palestinians may well be a victim in this mess, but they do not blame, at least sufficiently, their leadership and the more radical neighbors among them. They get especially insufferable when they attempt to describe an outcome that is so utterly disingenuous.

It is too much to hope that Omar Shakir would shut up, and that makes it no less annoying. Ben & Jerry’s created a monster in Shakir. Or a drip, at least.

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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