LETTER TO GOVERNORS ON BEN & JERRY'S AND ANTI-BOYCOTT LAWS
We are US pro-Israel organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Jewish Americans, including thousands of Jewish clergy, and other supporters of Israel in the United States. As advocates for Israel and a future in which it thrives as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people, we oppose calls to take legal action against Ben & Jerry’s or its parent company Unilever in response to its decision to no longer sell ice cream in occupied Palestinian territory.
A number of opponents of Ben & Jerry’s decision have incorrectly labeled it a boycott of Israel, delegitimization of Israel, or an endorsement of the global BDS movement. We are especially dismayed that some have degraded the discussion around the issue by calling the move antisemitic, a dehumanization of the Jewish people, and even an act of terrorism. Such discourse not only clouds the facts, but is extremely polarizing, deeply painful to many Jews and harms the fight against the growing tide of actual, deadly hatred that our community faces worldwide.
None of our organizations endorse boycotts of Israel or support the global BDS movement—and many of us actively advocate against them. At the same time, like Ben & Jerry’s, we make a clear distinction between the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories it militarily occupies. This critical differentiation between the State of Israel and the settlements established in occupied territory in violation of international law is rightly recognized and maintained in various ways by official US policy and the constitutionally-protected actions of private individuals and organizations.
Most Jewish Americans support policies that reflect this important distinction. For example, a recent poll of Jewish voters in the United States found that a majority support both continued US military aid to Israel and measures to ensure that such assistance is not used in connection with expanding settlements. We also note that the McDonald’s franchisee in Israel has declined for many years to open a restaurant in the settlements. In contrast, both the global BDS movement and supporters of the settlements argue against this distinction between Israel and the occupied territories, asserting that the entirety of the land should be treated as a single political entity. That approach forecloses the possibility of a peaceful two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—a solution supported by a supermajority of American Jews and Americans overall, and which is the official policy of the US government.
We are also deeply concerned that moves to penalize those who choose to protest settlements, the occupation or Israeli policy at large violate Americans’ fundamental constitutional rights and dangerously create a false dichotomy between freedom of speech and support for Israel. We have joined First Amendment advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union in opposing recent state and local “anti-boycott” laws, as well as similar bills at the federal level, on free speech grounds, and because they have the potential to be weaponized against political opponents and to silence Palestinians and human rights advocates. Several such laws have already been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts in states such as Texas, Arizona and Kansas.
No matter how strongly one might disagree with or oppose the rhetoric or goals of specific movements and efforts, the right to boycott is an important part of our democracy. Over 70 percent of Americans—including supermajorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents—oppose laws that penalize those who boycott Israel, because they believe such measures “infringe on the Constitutional right to free speech and peaceful protest.”
Using the full force and power of government to penalize those who exercise their rights in opposition to Israeli policy does nothing but generate further attention and sympathy for boycotts, and frames backing Israel as being in opposition to fundamental freedoms in the minds of many Americans. That is a strategic disaster for those, like us, who are trying to maintain and grow a healthy US-Israel relationship.
We greatly appreciate you taking the time to consider the full range of views within the Jewish and pro-Israel community on this complex yet consequential matter, and would welcome the opportunity to further discuss it with you and other relevant state officials.
Americans for Peace Now
Habonim Dror North America
New Israel Fund
Partners for Progressive Israel
T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
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7-13 Tishrei 5782 Sept. 13-19, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--658th Web Ed.
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DO WHAT YOU CAN AND WHAT YOU ENJOY
By DR. GLENN MOLLETTE
You will be most successful if you pursue a career that you are able to do. Some jobs do not mentally or physically suit our abilities. Some people find work to do but are only able to maintain their vocational effort until they are 50 or 55 years old. This is fine as many people are able to financially retire in their fifties. Jobs that require strenuous physical labor become less productive for many as they age.
Often, throughout life we find ourselves working jobs that are available and that pay enough for us to make our living. If we can physically and mentally adapt to the vocational demands then we have a chance of doing very well.
More success will come your way if you enjoy your work. Typically, the physical and mental aspects of your work endeavors aren’t as difficult because of your attitude toward your labor. What would be difficult for someone else is easier for you because you enjoy the work.
A surgeon spends many years in college, medical school and sometimes more than one residency. Many people are not cut out to spend this much of their lives in school. A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine, who is 72 years old, performed six surgical procedures in one day. He totally thrives on his work and retirement is not in his vocabulary. Five days a week he is seeing patients and performing surgeries. He totally loves his work. To him, it’s easy, and is mentally and emotionally stimulating.
Sometimes we have jobs we can’t wait to quit. Sometimes there are jobs we simply never want to quit.
Financial security will hinge on two key factors. Work you can do and work you enjoy doing. If you can do the work and you do a good job, you will be able to continue as long as you are mentally and physically capable. If you enjoy the work, then you are going to try to keep going as long as possible.
When you enjoy something, eventually you’ll make money from it because you are stimulated to keep working and improving.
A married couple has worked for a local restaurant for over ten years. They make a respectable living and both are always a delight in taking care of their patrons. A dear friend mowed yards for over 20 years and was always an inspiration to the many who hired him. Another friend spends eight hours a day solving people’s computer issues. He never lacks for work. Another, spends his days measuring people for clothes and sells the best special ordered suits in town. Another, makes a good living laying tile while another friend plays fiddle on the weekends but then makes her real living giving fiddle lessons all week.
There are all kinds of jobs. All require learning, developing and mastering a skill. Follow your heart, learn the work, pace yourself and you’ll thrive emotionally and financially.
Dr. Glenn Mollette, Newburgh, IN
CONFERENCE OF PRESIDENTS APPLAUDS ISRAEL'S REJOINING AFRICAN UNION
By MALCOLM HOENLEIN
We commend the formal reestablishment of the State of Israel’s observer status in the African Union, which consists of the 55 member states that make up the countries of the African continent.
This mutually beneficial development is further proof of the historic progress being made toward normalization of relations with Israel in recent years. This follows the renewal of Israel’s diplomatic ties with Chad, Guinea, and Sudan, as well as the Abraham Accords which includes Morocco. Israel enjoys long-term close ties with other African countries, dating back to the Camp David Accords with Egypt in the 1970s.
We look forward to seeing these partnerships continue to bear fruit in deterring extremist forces in Africa, and in the ongoing efforts to cooperate in combating the COVID-19 pandemic among many other challenges.
Malcolm Hoenlein, New York
JEWISH LEADERS CALL FOR REVERSAL OF BEN & JERRY'S
By DIANNE LOB
We are deeply disappointed in Ben & Jerry’s decision to cease operations with its Israeli licensee, thereby refusing to sell its ice cream to Israelis and Palestinians in land Ben & Jerry’s describes as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory.’ This decision, pushed by BDS activists who are now stating that Ben & Jerry’s did not go far enough by not boycotting all of Israel, demonstrates that some who push these boycotts are not guided by concern over ‘disputed’ territory, but rather seek any excuse to demonize the State of Israel.
We commend Ben & Jerry’s Israel for their opposition to BDS and their decision to continue selling in all areas until their contract expires. Ben & Jerry’s Israel operated the first factory outside the United States as a lessee. It is unfortunate that due to Ben & Jerry’s decision Ben & Jerry’s Israel, which brought the ice cream to Israel over 30 years ago, will no longer be licensed to do so.
Thirty-three states took action through legislation or executive orders that penalize companies that boycott Israel. We encourage Unilever, the multinational consumer product corporation that owns Ben & Jerry’s, to recognize that boycotts of Israel are discriminatory and further inflame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Given their fiduciary responsibilities, Unilever should consider the restrictions that exist in some states on pension fund investments and state purchasing. We call upon Unilever to override the decision of its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s.
Since Ben & Jerry’s admirably speaks out against discrimination and hatred, we are dismayed that it would ally itself with the discriminatory and antisemitic BDS Movement. We strongly urge them to rescind this decision.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is the recognized central coordinating body representing 53 diverse national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern.