Mondoweiss

As Israeli soldiers crushed Gaza, world Jewry united, and sent Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to the front

Boycott Ben & Jerry's promotion by Vermonters for a Just Peace

Today is a Jewish holiday of reflection, Tisha B’Av, commemorating the destruction of the temples, and the Times of Israel posted a piece about Jewish unity during the last Gaza war: “Ben & Jerry’s on Tisha B’av?! Lessons from the 2014 Gaza War.” A former combat officer during the Gaza onslaught, Yaakov Selavan relates that his troops were buoyed again and again by the generosity of global Jewry because Jews were unified during the war– when more than 2200 Gazans were killed, most of them civilians, including 500 children; and about 70 Israelis were killed, six of them civilians.

Selavan says the Israeli troops got a flood of love from around the world.

During those days when we awaited the order to enter and destroy the terror tunnels, we began getting a trickle of love, which turned into a flood. Thousands of packages were reaching us every day; hundreds of visitors were treating the troops…

He says that Jews were “one” against “our enemies,” we were family and “saw the beauty in each other,” and the lesson is we must not be divided.

[I]n the two biggest tragedies our nation went through in the past 2,000 years, the destruction of the Second Temple and the Holocaust, we were divided and separated into sectors, and even in crisis we refused to unite.

In 2014, we were one. We shook off the dust of thousands of years, and could look beyond the facades of politics and sectors. We suddenly saw the beauty in each other, we suddenly understood: we are a family, no matter how different we are. So, now that I can say in the time of crisis, when our enemies remind us we are one, we have learned to love and unite…

The Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was a gift from South African Jews.

The morning before Tisha B’av a truck full of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was sent to us by a South African community. After finishing my fourth box, just an hour before the fast, we got a message that there was a ceasefire, and it was final.

And the piece concludes with a religious message:

In the rebuilding of Jerusalem we shall be comforted.

These are explosive materials: The unification of Jews worldwide behind a state committing a massacre on a religious-ethnic basis; and the invocation of religion to justify that violence. One of our themes here is the potentially explosive nature of Israeli political culture; the mixture of nationalism and superiority and militarism that Israeli Jews have evolved in a fortress-like state in a bad neighborhood cannot work out well.

The Ben & Jerry’s ice cream surely came from nearby. Ben & Jerry’s has a plant in Israel and sells ice cream in the settlements.

Vermonters for a Just Peace organized a boycott of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream because of that plant and those sales to the settlements — and the 2014 onslaught that Selavan is consecrating:

VTJP’s thinking on the necessity for a boycott reached a tipping point during Israel’s military assault against Gaza in the summer of 2014. 2,200 Palestinians were killed and more than 11,000 wounded. The casualties were overwhelmingly civilians.

Because Gaza’s morgues could not handle the horrific carnage, bodies of dead children and babies had to be stacked temporarily in ice cream freezers prior to burial.

While this massacre of innocents was being carried out, Ben & Jerry’s “peace & love” ice cream was passing through Israeli checkpoints, being transported on Jewish-only roads, and being sold to supermarkets and for catered events in Jewish-only settlements.

A “massacre of innocents.” But Jews “suddenly saw the beauty in each other.” These two views are incompatible. I urge my community to reflect on the damage of unifying behind an ideology of us-against-the-world, with guns and God.

Thanks to Todd Pierce.