Ben & Jerry: Malicious, maybe; clueless, definitely
The fascinating thing about Ben & Jerry's founders' "guest essay" in the New York Times defending their board's decision to stop sales in what they call "occupied Palestinian territories" is how utterly clueless they are.
The company's stated decision to more fully align its operations with its values is not a rejection of Israel. It is a rejection of Israeli policy, which perpetuates an illegal occupation that is a barrier to peace and violates the basic human rights of the Palestinian people who live under the occupation.
Based on that, let's ask ourselves: how much do Ben & Jerry know about the "occupation"?
The answer is "nothing."
At least they should have asked themselves an obvious question: "why is there occupation in the first place?"
Is it because Israelis are ogres bent on dispossessing the innocent Palestinians? That seems to be Ben & Jerry's answer — but this answer exposes them as clueless ignoramuses. There is occupation for the simple reason that the alternative is Israel's destruction. Palestinians don't have to be occupied. (For that matter, the huge majority of them aren't — about 95% of West Bank Palestinians live in Area A, under full Palestinian Authority control. One hundred percent of Gaza Palestinians are not occupied, either, living under Hamas.) Palestinians had ample opportunity, from back in the 1930s, to have their own state, with its borders defined through a negotiated partition. This they invariably refused, as a matter of principle: they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the legitimacy of Jewish presence in Palestine. It hurts their pride. When one points out to them that the land was, for some millennium and a half, a Jewish homeland centuries before Arabs came to the area on the wave of Arab conquests that commenced after the death of Mohammed, they stop their ears. They don't want to know, because if they knew, they would have had to agree that the presence of the Jews is reasonable and legal. They would rather stay willfully ignorant and claim that they are victims of settler-colonizers — but not the descendants of Arab invaders who in their prime gobbled and settler-colonized half of the then known world, from Spain in the West to the border of India in the East, Palestine included.
While it is somewhat understandable why the Palestinians insist on staying ignorant, teaching lies and hate to their children, and strenuously opposing facts, that same tendency in the Western "progressives" is much more puzzling. Yet it is a fact of life — Ben & Jerry clearly don't know the history, clearly have no clue that "occupation" came about because Jordan attacked Israel, and is maintained because Palestinians refuse any reasonable accommodation with Israel — only its destruction will do. To Ben & Jerry, just as to Palestinians, ignorance is an appealing shield. Almost touchingly, in their essay, Ben & Jerry plead idiocy as a defense of their views: "Ben & Jerry's is a company that advocates peace. It has long called on Congress to reduce the U.S. military budget. Ben & Jerry's opposed the Persian Gulf war of 1991." To them, it's simple: if only the U.S. disarmed (and gave Saddam what he wanted — Kuwait and whatever else), there would have been peace. They apply the same principle to Israel: if it only ended the "occupation," there would be peace. Well, Israel ended the occupation of Gaza in 2005 and got back Hamas and its rain of rockets; it ended the occupation of south Lebanon in 2000 and got a war with Hezb'allah and the present threat of its massive arsenal. No, Ben & Jerry, Israeli occupation is the vital bedrock of peace.
It indeed may be that Ben & Jerry are not malicious, but are genuine fools who believe in peace through weakness and submission, contrary to all historical evidence. Apparently, they were too busy playing with ice cream mixes to learn some history. Clearly, they genuinely think Palestinians want peace rather than the destruction of Israel.
In a word, Ben & Jerry are willfully ignorant — just as Palestinians are, though perhaps for a different reason: Palestinians out of a latent hope to push the Jews out into the sea one day, Ben & Jerry because they are just fools — useful idiots, to use Lenin's official term. But birds of the feather flock together; the ignorant — and well-meaning — Ben & Jerry are making the nest with the equally ignorant, but not too well-meaning Palestinians.
Very few people are universally talented. Genius businessmen are not necessarily good at understanding politics — and when they make political pronouncements, they come across as fools. That's exactly how Ben & Jerry came across on the pages of the New York Times — as ingenious businessmen and very rich people who are utterly clueless on issues that are not their forte — like the Middle East.
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