The Israeli government’s panicked reaction to the announcement that Ben & Jerry’s would no longer sell its products in the occupied Palestinian territories has been amusing to watch, but it is part of a chilling campaign to stifle free speech here in the US and to delegitimize all protest of Israel’s illegal occupation. Senior government officials have labeled the decision to respect international law and not sell in the occupied territories as anti-Semitism and terrorism, and they have called on almost three dozen American state governors to enforce their blatantly unconstitutional anti-BDS laws against the company. On one level, this is absurd and the Israeli government is making a mockery of itself, but this is no laughing matter.
When you watch the Israeli government denounce an ice cream company for recognizing the distinction between Israel’s illegal settlements and Israel itself, it is important to remember that the same government wants to erase that distinction. The government would not be reacting so furiously if it were otherwise. When the Israeli government launches an all-out assault on a company for boycotting illegal settlements in illegally occupied territories as an attack on Israel, it is because they see those settlements as an integral part of Israel and they mean to keep expanding them. While they pursue their creeping annexation, they want to intimidate foreign companies from protesting against it. The government wants to make an example of Ben & Jerry’s because they fear that more companies will follow suit unless the costs of doing so are deemed to be prohibitive.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.