Thursday, July 22, 2021

From Ian:

Eugene Kontorovich (WSJ, link via tweet): Ben & Jerry’s Israel Boycott Could Cost Unilever
Ben & Jerry’s knew this was an offer the licensee had to refuse. Parts of what the company calls “occupied Palestinian territory” Israel (as well as the U.S.) considers sovereign Israeli territory. Israeli law bars boycotts of Israeli citizens, Jewish or Arab, based on their location. So Unilever cancelled the Israeli Ben & Jerry’s entirely because it wouldn’t engage in a secondary boycott.

Because Ben & Jerry’s is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, the latter is responsible for its boycott. In the past eight years, 33 American states have passed laws that restrict government contracting or investing in companies that boycott Israeli people or businesses. These laws are modeled on similar restrictions on companies that discriminate on other grounds, such as sexual orientation.

This means that, in about a dozen states, state employees’ pension funds will be barred from investment in Unilever. In many other states, government entities will be barred from buying goods or services from Unilever. Moreover, since the 1970s, federal law has banned U.S. companies from participating in foreign boycotts of any country. If it turns out that the Palestinian Authority contacted Ben & Jerry’s or its officers and asked them to boycott, criminal penalties would be available against Unilever.

Ben & Jerry’s suggests that its action is motivated by the Israeli “occupation.” But the company seems to have decided to end its Israel business in May, when Hamas unleashed a 10-day rocket barrage on Israeli civilians. Ben & Jerry’s has not boycotted anyone but the Jewish state. And that is what the state and federal boycott laws recognize—that refusals to deal with Israelis are most often a form of bigotry.

Legal Fallout: Is Ben & Jerry’s Israel Boycott Only a Free Speech Issue?

'Insider' links Ben & Jerry's to activist kicked out of Israel
Ben & Jerry’s announcement on Monday that it would stop selling its ice cream in Judea and Samaria, caving in to pressure from BDS, had many people wondering who was advising the Vermont-based company.

Constitutional & international law professor Eugene Kontorovich, who is an expert on legal issues in the Israeli-Arab conflict, said on Twitter that he had a “scoop” on the company’s decision.

“SCOOP (on Ben & Jerry’s): I’ve been told by (a Ben & Jerry’s) insider that company's board invited Omar Shakir, a professional BDS activist, to advise them, rejected calls to hear experts on other side. This ain't about the settlements,” he tweeted.

In a response to Kontorovich’s tweet, NGO Monitor said, “Not surprising since Omar Shakir was kicked out of Israel for being a BDS activist. First he pressured FIFA, then airbnb, and now Ben & Jerry’s. His entire ‘human rights’ career has been devoted to pressuring companies to boycott Israel.”

In 2019, Shakir, who was the regional director of Human Rights Watch in Israel, was deported from Israel after a court ruled he had promoted the BDS movement’s agenda.

Richard Goldberg: Double Scoops and Double Standards Courtesy of Ben & Jerry's
In addition to its classic double scoops, Vermont-based ice cream producer Ben & Jerry's is now offering a calorie-rich serving of double standards, too. The Ben & Jerry's brand, owned and operated by Unilever, announced on July 19 that it would terminate its license agreement with an Israeli-based manufacturer to ensure its products "will no longer be sold" in the "Occupied Palestinian Territory." Unilever cut off the longstanding licensee after it refused to halt sales in the disputed territories, which reportedly would violate Israeli law. In short, Unilever engaged in a boycott of Israel as defined by state and federal law, which means the company may soon be facing penalties that eat into its profits.

Unilever is a British multinational consumer goods company headquartered in London, U.K. It has annual revenues of $61 billion (£45 billion) and its products are available in over 190 countries. It also maintains corporate offices in numerous human rights-abusing countries, including China, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. Unilever is reportedly a major purchaser of tomato paste from state-owned factories in China's Xinjiang region, where the U.S. State Department says China is engaged in "horrific abuses." In January 2021, the U.S. government halted the import of all such tomato paste into the U.S., citing the use of forced labor that amounted to "exploiting modern slavery." Yet neither Unilever nor Ben & Jerry's appears to have ever taken action against China's massive human rights violations in Xinjiang.

It is difficult to say why Unilever shows greater concern for the sale of ice cream in West Bank settlements than it does for the exploitation of forced labor in Xinjiang, yet the company's board members and senior executives have a lengthy record of criticizing the Jewish state. Jeff Furman, the president of the Ben & Jerry's Foundation's board and former chair of the corporate board, visited the West Bank in 2012 on a tour organized by an activist group that advocated for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Furman also signed a letter that condemned Israeli military operations in Gaza, but conspicuously never mentioned Hamas—the terrorist outfit that runs Gaza. Furthermore, he has called for the end of U.S. aid to Israel and has falsely claimed that Palestinians endure "apartheid living conditions."

Anuradha Mittal, Furman's replacement as corporate board chair, has similarly demonstrated her selective emphasis on the Israeli government's actions. The Oakland Institute, which she directs, produced a series of nine reports condemning Israel in 2017. Mittal announced that she deleted her Airbnb account in May 2019 after Airbnb reversed its own short-lived boycott of Israel. Moreover, she publicly opposed a congressional resolution condemning anti-Semitism and signed a petition in June 2021 calling to end U.S. arms sales to Israel.

The Ben & Jerry's independent board distanced itself from the brand's July 19 announcement—objecting to a clause stating that Ben & Jerry's would continue operating in "pre-1967" Israel and reasserting its autonomy to make "social justice" decisions under its 2000 merger agreement. This underscores that Unilever does indeed share responsibility for the boycott decision. Unilever's release of the boycott announcement under the Ben & Jerry's brand—and its admission that Unilever, not Ben & Jerry's, will be the corporate entity that cuts off the Israeli licensee—demonstrates that the parent company has ultimate control over Ben & Jerry's operations.

Texas looking into divestment from Unilever over Ben & Jerry’s boycott
Texas may withdraw its investments from Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever, after the ice cream company decided to boycott Judea and Samaria, Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced on Thursday.

Hegar said he directed his staff to determine whether Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever took any action that would trigger his state’s anti-boycott law.

Texas’ pension fund amounts to over $100 million, according to Bloomberg, and Unilever is included in its portfolio.

Texas Government Code Chapter 808 prohibits the government from investing its pension fund in any party that boycotts Israel. It defines “boycott Israel” as “refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or otherwise taking any action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or with a person or entity doing business in Israel or an Israeli-controlled territory.”

Ben & Jerry’s has operated in Israel for close to 35 years, with a factory in Be’er Tuviya. On Tuesday, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would no longer sell its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” and was ending its contract with its Israeli licensee, which refused to participate in the boycott, when it expires in 2022. The statement said they would look for a new arrangement and continue to sell its products in Israel.

The Vermont-based company’s independent board, however, released a statement of its own saying the previous statement came from Unilever, which owns Ben & Jerry’s, and does not reflect their position, which is to end sales in Israel entirely.

“Texans have made it very clear that they stand with Israel and its people,” Hegar said. “We are against all those wishing to undermine Israel’s economy and its people… My office has a long history of supporting Israel through our bond holdings and the Comptroller’s list of scrutinized companies with ties to Iran, as well as those with ties to foreign terrorist organizations.”

'Unilever remains fully committed to our business in Israel'
Unilever's chief executive on Thursday said the company was "fully committed" to Israel, days after coming under Israeli pressure over a decision by its subsidiary Ben & Jerry's to end ice cream sales in Judea and Samaria.

The Ben & Jerry's ice cream brand took its decision after pressure from pro-Palestinian groups over its business in Israel and Jewish settlements through a licensee partner since 1987.

"I think if there's one message I want to underscore ... it's that Unilever remains fully committed to our business in Israel," CEO Alan Jope told investors during an earnings call.

He said the group had invested 1 billion shekels ($306 million) in Israel over the past decade and was invested in its startup culture and social programs.

"This was a decision taken by Ben & Jerry's and its independent board ... and we always recognize the importance of that agreement," he said.

Ben & Jerry's, which has built a reputation as a supporter of social justice causes, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and LGBTQ+ rights campaigns, was acquired by Unilever in 2000 in a deal allowing it to operate with more autonomy than other subsidiaries. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Unilever on Tuesday about "severe consequences" from Ben & Jerry's decision, calling it an anti-Israel step.
US Anti-BDS Laws Could Challenge Ben & Jerry's Boycott - the latest

Ben and Jerry's Joins the List of Counterproductive "Do-Gooders"
I am so tired of people who view themselves as "do-gooders," advancing actions that only make the chance of reaching peace with the Palestinians even slimmer. Ben & Jerry's intention to cease selling their ice cream in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem is another of these counterproductive actions. This move will not bring peace. The Palestinians will say, "We do not have to make any fundamental concessions; we will let the world pressure Israel."

I supported Israel's unilateral pullout from Gaza. We pulled out unilaterally and completely in 2005 and still thousands of rockets are fired at us each year. Somehow, though, the world protests our actions. People seem thoroughly uninterested in who fired missiles, in who started the war.

Whose fault is it that Gaza, instead of being a Palestinian Singapore, is impoverished and spends much of its money building underground tunnels and missiles? The onus is on the Palestinians to respond to the many peace offers that have been put forward by Israel.
Bennett: US consumers don’t think taking Hamas’s side is ‘cool’
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday that boycotting Israel is a terrible business move, and implied that US-based ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s was siding with Hamas by banning sales in Israeli settlements.

“Whoever considers turning a boycott of Israel into a marketing or branding issue will discover that it is the worst business decision he has ever made,” Bennett said.

He spoke at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv while meeting with a 26-person delegation of global ambassadors to the US and the UN that is currently touring Israel.

“Consumers, certainly in Israel but also in the US and other countries, don’t think that taking Hamas’s side is cool,” he continued. “We will use all measures at our disposal, including legislative.”

On Monday, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it would no longer distribute its products in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” apparently referring to West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem.

The news was met with furious condemnation in Israel, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid vowing to ask dozens of US states to activate their anti-BDS laws to punish the ice cream company.
How Ben and Jerry's Israel Boycott Has United Many Jews
Some issues simply go too far, and Ben & Jerry's decision to stop selling its ice cream in "Occupied Palestinian Territories" was one of those. Unlike previous companies subjected to boycotts, Ben & Jerry's makes its ice cream inside Israel. It doesn't even operate any ice cream stores over the 1967 lines. But by targeting sales to the West Bank rather than products made there, Ben & Jerry's is setting an alarming precedent.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, the boycott criteria already set by Ben & Jerry's "would make any Israeli or foreign company that helps stock a [West Bank] supermarket with those products susceptible to boycotts." Regardless of where one sits on the political spectrum, Ben & Jerry's has crossed a line that repulses much of the mainstream Jewish community.

We've seen this singling out of Israel over and over by groups that ignore genocides and mass murders to go after the world's only Jewish state. When a beloved brand joins the anti-Israel parade so loudly and forcefully, it concentrates the mind about the unfair and discriminatory targeting of Israel.
Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce condemns Ben and Jerry’s
The Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce condemns Ben and Jerry’s decision to embrace the BDS movement and to terminate the company’s sales in Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem. Such action, besides being immoral and wrong, seeks to initiate anti-Semitic animosity, create division, and delegitimize the Jewish nation.

Ben & Jerry’s actions will unfortunately hurt Palestinian workers and their economy as a whole if economic sanctions are directed against firms in Israel that employ them. Sadly, this ignorant hostility will only instigate further strife and work to erode peace in the Middle East.

We call on Ben & Jerry’s to remove their anti-Semitic board members who are acting irresponsibly by mixing into politics and harming their company’s image.

The Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce calls upon all American businesses to boycott business with Ben and Jerry’s until they end their boycott against Israel.
Aussie Jewish stores stop selling Ben & Jerry’s
KOSHER retailers in Australia this week joined a global Jewish protest against the Ben & Jerry’s boycott.

Contacted by The AJN on Tuesday afternoon, Kraus in Ripponlea, Melbourne, said, “Due to the recent decision by Ben & Jerry’s … we will no longer be stocking their line.”

The sentiment was echoed by Kosher Kingdom in Elsternwick who said they were “working on removing the brand”.

By Tuesday evening, the store had posted online, “Due to recent statements made by Ben & Jerry’s ice cream we have decided to stop selling their product … we stand with Israel.”

Krinskys in Bondi told The AJN it was not a brand they stocked.

Ben & Jerry’s was also taken off the Kashrut Authority of Australia and New Zealand directory.

In the US, meanwhile, there was a social media push to convince kosher certifier KOF-K to remove Ben & Jerry’s hechsher, as a growing number of kosher supermarkets announced they would stop stocking Ben & Jerry’s products.

Communal leaders in Australia hit out at the ice cream manufacturer’s decision.

Bassem Eid: Ben and Jerry’s boycott hurts Palestinians
Ben and Jerry’s move will not be the first time boycotts against Israel have actively harmed Palestinians. After facing pressure from the same misguided BDS campaign, SodaStream moved from Mishor Admumim to a campus at the Idan Negev industrial area inside the Green Line. This move cost the jobs of around five hundred Palestinian employees. Nabil Basherat, a Palestinian who works as a manager at SodaStream, very succinctly told Israel Hayom that the “global BDS campaign has done the Palestinians more harm ‎than good.” In 2018, he said BDS pressure directly led to thousands of Palestinians losing their employment when the Mishor Adumim factory was shut down.

Corruption affects every aspect of life for Palestinians. It cripples our economy, making work hard to find. Companies deciding to boycott the area will only exacerbate this issue. Nadia Aloush, a Palestinian who works as a manager at the Mishor Admumim branch of the Rami Levy supermarket chain, expressed his frustration with this situation, “They want Rami Levy to close his stores, but I ask — ‎who will employ Palestinians instead? The Palestinian Authority ‎has failed to offer jobs to the Palestinians who worked in ‎SodaStream. I don’t understand why the world keeps donating ‎‎[to the PA] when it fails to even provide its people with jobs.” Addressing this corruption and incompetence would benefit Palestinians far more than boycotting Israel.

Ben and Jerry’s boycott will actively hurt the Palestinian people, just as previous BDS capitulations have. This should come as no surprise. The goals of these boycotts are never to help us. Ben and Jerry’s only cares about appeasing its left-wing consumers and the BDS trolls who attack them on social media. As usual, it’s my Palestinian brothers and sisters who will pay the price while these activists celebrate a “win”. The world should see the harm they cause us.

Rep. Ilhan Omar and other Dems push for the creation of a special envoy to combat Islamophobia
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and multiple other Democratic legislators are urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to establish a special envoy to combat Islamophobia.

Whitlock dishes on his ESPN exit, Bill Simmons, John Skipper, Deadspin and the Undefeated

"As part of our commitment to international religious freedom and human rights, we must recognize Islamophobia as a pattern that is repeating in nearly every corner of the globe," the lawmakers state in a letter to Blinken, according to CNN. "It is past time for the United States to stand firmly in favor of religious freedom for all, and to give the global problem of Islamophobia the attention and prioritization it deserves."

Omar is co-leading the letter along with Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. An additional 23 Democratic lawmakers have joined as well, according to the outlet.

Some of the other Democratic lawmakers backing the letter include Reps. Karen Bass of California, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Adam Smith of Washington and Sara Jacobs of California, according to CNN. The Hill mentioned Reps. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, Judy Chu of California and Steve Cohen of Tennessee.

The legislators want Blinken "to specifically include anti-Muslim violence per se in next year's annual human rights reports," according to The Hill.

"In addition to state-sponsored policies of Islamophobia, we have seen a disturbing rise in incidents of Islamophobic violence committed by individuals connected to larger transnational white supremacist networks, including but by no means limited to the mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019 and the recent murder of a Muslim Canadian family in London, Ontario," the legislators stated in the letter, The Hill reported.

“The NEC has acted decisively to put our own house in order” but will the Parliamentary Party and Labour as a whole follow suit?
The Chair of the Labour Party, Anneliese Dodds MP, has hailed Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) as having “acted decisively to put our own house in order” after it passed a serious of significant measures in the fight against antisemitism in the Party.

In its marathon nine-hour meeting yesterday – the last before the Party’s annual conference in September – the NEC voted to proscribe Labour Against the Witchhunt – an antisemitism-denial group – and the disgraced former Labour MP Chris Williamson’s Resist group, as well as two further far-left groups, paving the way for automatic expulsion of their members.

The NEC has also resolved, in line with Labour’s Action Plan agreed with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), to put forward a semi-independent disciplinary system for a vote at this year’s Party conference. It is understood that an Independent Reviews Panel and an Independent Appeal Board will be formed, to deal with complaints involving protected characteristics, such as allegations of antisemitism. The Appeal Board will reportedly comprise four lawyers, four lay members, and four HR experts, with panels of 3 – including one from each category – hearing cases.It is believed that the process will only be “semi-independent” because, for reasons of cost and protection of the rights of members, it would not be feasible to outsource the complaints process entirely to an independent body.

Ms Dodds described the proposal as “the fairest, most robust process of any political party that we know of.” The National Constitutional Committee will continue to deal with complaints that do not involve protected characteristics. However, the proposal is still subject to approval at conference, and it remains to be seen whether Labour’s leadership is capable of implementing them in practice.
A Little-Noticed Bill Sure to Put Dictators on Edge
A Syrian defector is quietly doing his part to take on foreign dictatorships.

The House of Representatives yesterday passed a landmark bill, whose proponents hope will increase the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions targeting human-rights-abusing regimes and Washington’s adversaries.

The idea is simple, yet unexpected. With sanctions’ targets engaged in all manner of sophisticated activities to evade seizure of their assets by U.S. authorities, the Bassam Barabandi Rewards for Justice Act gives the ordinary people — drivers, assistants, etc. — who serve foreign authoritarian elites an incentive to tip off the U.S. government about their efforts to evade sanctions.

All of this, the bill’s namesake said in an interview with National Review, is intended to fix some intractable problems that blunt the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions.

“I know from Syria that every time the U.S. sanctions someone as a person or a company, they use it as saying, ‘look I’m loyal,’” said Bassam Barabandi, the former Syrian diplomat who set this bill in motion. “It’s become more of a loyalty, showing loyalty, they get more advantages from their country, the same in Iran, the same in Cuba, the same in North Korea, even China, and Russia.” Moreover, he said, perfecting the use of targeted sanctions can do away with the need for broader measures that might cause more economic harm in the long run.

Under the Trump administration, the United States levied a record-setting number of sanctions measures — almost 4,000 by some counts. But sanctions evasion is commonplace, and even more widespread than U.S. law-enforcement activity would suggest. Since the start of 2021 alone, the Department of Justice has charged Iranian citizens with conspiring to evade sanctions, and the Treasury Department has targeted a Mexico-based network of oil distribution that laundered products targeted by U.S. penalties against the Venezuelan government.
Turkish President Erdogan's Burning Hatred for Israel
As chief of staff for former Israeli foreign ministers Silvan Shalom and Tzipi Livni, I participated in a number of meetings with Turkish President Erdogan, during the days in which he still met with Israeli leaders.

In all of these meetings I felt his conspicuous lack of affection for Israel, and even hatred. Erdogan had a clear vision of the new Middle East, and it did not include Israel.

We have a tendency to blame ourselves for everything that doesn't work, but in this case, the relationship with Erdogan was hopeless from the beginning.

Only those who were present in a meeting with Erdogan and felt his burning hatred for Israel, and only those who heard what he said, can understand how deeply these things are imprinted in his worldview.

Is satellite footage of attacked Iran facility being blocked?
It is starting to look like certain US satellite imagery services may have withheld high-resolution images of Iran’s nuclear facility at Karaj on June 23, which Tehran eventually blamed on Israel.

Although services like Maxar provided high-resolution images of the Natanz nuclear facility within several days of its being hit in July 2020, nearly a month after the Karaj attack, they have not done so.

Industry sources are cautious about drawing conclusions – there are always unpredictable technical issues in the field of imagery – but viewed the absence of high-resolution images so long after the attack as very unusual.

Maxar was contacted but did not respond regarding the issue.

One reason it is possible that US companies might withhold such images could be that their primary customer is the US government, and it could, even informally, send certain “shutter control” signals.

Why all of this would be occurring is even more speculative, but one reason could be to help the Islamic Republic preserve the veneer of mild damage to its nuclear program.

The US wants to cut a deal with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, and part of getting to yes with the regime may be various face-saving measures.

If the ayatollahs wish to present the deal to their public as occurring from a position of strength and not desperation, they might want to cover up how badly the Karaj nuclear facility was damaged.
Biden Admin Backs Iranian Protesters Amid Regime Crackdown
Even as it negotiates a new nuclear deal with Iran, the Biden administration is rallying behind Iranian protesters who have clashed with the hardline government’s security forces in recent days.

A State Department spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday that officials are "closely following the reports of protests in Iran’s Khuzestan province, including reports that security forces have fired on protesters." The Biden administration supports "the rights of Iranians to peacefully assemble and express themselves, which they should enjoy without fear of violence and arbitrary detention by security forces," the spokesman said. Members of Congress have also condemned the Iranian government for reacting with violence.

The protests are creating a delicate diplomatic situation for the Biden administration, which has sought to back the Iranian people while negotiating a new nuclear deal with the regime that will only strengthen its power. If U.S. sanctions on Iran are lifted as part of a deal, it is likely the government will use this money to boost its regional terrorism enterprise, just as it did when the Obama administration granted across the board sanctions relief. Four years of the Trump administration’s "maximum pressure" campaign nearly bankrupted the Iranian government and created the very conditions protesters are rebelling against.

The protests began a week ago in response to water shortages in southwest Iran. The demonstrations spread on Wednesday to Tehran, where anti-regime activists were seen, in videos posted to social media, condemning the government and chanting, "Death to the Islamic Republic." Iran’s security forces reacted with violence as they dispersed protesters.

Protests have raged across Iran in recent months, as its economy teeters on the brink of collapse. Many blame the country’s economic woes on the hardline government, as it invests in regional terror groups and foreign wars. Iran’s state-controlled news outlets have attempted to bury information about the protests, but social media posts during the past few days have begun to catch the eye of U.S. officials.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Iranian people are demanding "freedom from the regime in Tehran" and that he condemns "the regime’s brutal use of force to disperse peaceful protesters."

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