By Leon S. Malmud
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are very clever and successful businessmen. They developed a brand of tasty and cutely named varieties of butter-fat rich ice cream that achieved marketing success in a highly competitive market in both the United States and internationally. They also developed a highly effective marketing campaign that links their product with ideals of social justice and climate change.
Like so many other clever and successful businesses, Ben & Jerry’s value profit over their ideals and are willing to suspend their principles when they get in the way of making money. They sell to countries who support their ideals, who believe in democratic rule, religious and racial justice, and the equality of women. We know who those countries are.
They also sell without guilt to countries who embody the opposite agenda. Perhaps those countries are less well known, so I’ll name a few. China, for example, who forces “re-education” by incarcerating one million Muslims in the western provinces. Let us not forget Russia, with its kleptocratic leadership and persistent poverty, or Iran, the world’s greatest sponsor of international terrorism. Nor should we forget those countries who torture, imprison, rape, enslave and murder their Christian minorities. Aren’t they even more worthy of Ben & Jerry’s’ righteous indignation, or are their markets too precious to place in jeopardy?
Ben & Jerry’s’ past selling history must be considered when trying to understand why they chose the Palestinian cause for their social justice succor. I suspect that they cleverly intended to use their platform to expand their brand by appealing to the worst in some by attacking the world’s oldest and greatest scapegoat. The market they might lose in Israel and among some American Jews and evangelicals is relatively small when compared to the anti-Israel market around the world.
It is true that Israel has some internal problems of equality, but so do all the other nations of the world, including, sadly, our own. However, Ben & Jerry’s have not enacted a boycott against any other, possibly because they knew that it might affect their profitability. Targeting Russia’s leadership or Iran’s corrupt mullahs, who are out to destroy our country, would probably end in retaliatory internet or terrorist attacks, which are certainly bad for business.
Targeting Israel may be good for Ben & Jerry’s profits, but not necessarily as good for the cause of social justice or, for that matter, our nation. Did you know that Israel is the most environmentally conscious and productive nation in the Middle East? It has been the United States’ most steadfast and staunchest ally in the Middle East since its founding in 1948.
Israel also shares Ben & Jerry’s and our nation’s democratic ideals. Israeli Arabs are full participants in the Knesset, Israeli and Arab women enjoy equal rights and there is universal health care and educational opportunities for all. Despite the contempt directed toward their home, Israelis endeavor to be ambassadors for good to other countries during disasters, regardless of which religion is practiced there. While watching TV, it is common to see dogs with Magen Davids on their coverings searching for victims of earthquakes across the world or to see the health care workers wearing kippahs tending to the injured.
Yes, the Palestinian people need help. They are victims, not of Israel, but of their own most often corrupt leadership, which practices terrorism, not peace. This same leadership diverts money from needed health, education and housing reforms for their own people to pay for weapons that ruin their chances for a peaceful and prosperous country. They are not bent on a two-state strategy, which they rejected, but a two-step solution: first, the west bank and East Jerusalem; second, all of the land between Jordan and the Mediterranean.
Shame on you, Ben & Jerry’s, for choosing the wrong target to boost your sales. In the interest of your feigned concern for the environment, I say that people should stop buying your ice cream because the methane gas from your many cows is helping to destroy the earth’s protective atmosphere, even more than the noxious rhetoric emanating from your mouths.
Leon S. Malmud is the dean emeritus of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.