A Guardian op-ed by Mark Hage of Vermonters for Justice in Palestine – a group which promotes the conspiracy that Israel is responsible for racist police brutality in the US – serves as victory lap of sorts over their success at getting Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling ice cream across the Green Line.
Though, according to Hage’s Guardian account (“We got Ben & Jerry’s to stop selling in Israeli settlements. Here’s how we did it”, Aug. 5), he “spent the last decade organizing with fellow activists in Vermont to convince Ben & Jerry’s to end business in Israel’s settlements”, he frames efforts by Jewish and non-Jewish opponents of BDS as morally illegitimate:
But this principled decision [by Ben & Jerry’s] was met with a barrage of baseless accusations of antisemitism from Israeli leaders, along with threats to punish the company using anti-BDS laws that crack down on Americans’ constitutionally protected right to boycott.
First, the belief that BDS is antisemitic – held by most diaspora Jews – is based in part on the BDS movement’s opposition to the continued existence of Israel – not adjusting the borders, or merely creating a Palestinian state, but seeking a future based on the belief that one majority Jewish state in the world is one too many.
Also, there’s no evidence we can find that Hage is a constitutional lawyer, or has any expertise in First Amendment issues. So, it’s less than clear on what basis he concludes that anti-BDS laws, passed by legislatures in 35 US states, is unconstitutional. Moreover, the limited court challenges to these laws have typically resulted in the state legislation being revised (not abandoned) to address the typically narrow legal concerns.
Hage continues on the same theme, which he now centers around Israel:
Israel is demanding that our elected officials trample our first amendment rights and coerce a private American company to conduct business in a manner exclusively on terms pleasing to Israel’s government and settlers, no matter what that government or its settlers do to Palestinians. This is as outrageous as it sounds.
What’s genuinely “outrageous” is Hage’s belief that Israel has the power to “demand” anything from governors state legislatures, many of whom have decided to activate their anti-BDS legislation to combat Ben & Jerry’s boycott. And, his suggestion that anti-BDS sentiments are only shared by settlers and the Israeli government is absurd. In addition to opposition from Jewish Americans, in 2019, the US House of Representatives voted 398-to-17 to condemn BDS, with only 16 Democratic members of Congress opposing the measure.
Later in the op-ed, Hage reveals his hand:
We also implore other companies to break their ties to Israel’s settlements and to its economy as a whole. After all, Israel’s settlements don’t exist in isolation; they are fully backed by Israel, and it is perfectly clear that Israel’s human rights abuses extend beyond its settlements.
So, it isn’t merely the settlements he objects to: But the entire state, even territory within pre-1967 lines.
The piece ends with this flourish:
For centuries, ordinary people have turned to boycotts as a means of speaking truth to power and of confronting injustice, against what seem to be insurmountable odds. It’s the classic David and Goliath story. In the end, we know boycotts work and that freedom, justice and equality will win.
Arguably one of the biggest conceits propagated by anti-Zionists is that attacking Jews, who make up a meager two-tenths of one percent of the world’s population, and this historically oppressed minority’s right to self-determination, is “speaking truth to power”.
Hage fancies himself on the side of the angels, when, in fact, the movement he represents is merely the organisation of politics against the Jews under a ‘progressive’ veneer.
He believes he’s an anti-racist, yet his fellow anti-Zionist political travelers are far more likely to hold racist views about Jews than most people – and, as we saw in May in places like New York City, Boston and London, far more likely to act on those views.
In the end, Jews, both inside and outside of Israel, know that BDS isn’t just a boycott movement; it isn’t about the occupation or settlements; and it certainly isn’t about freedom, justice or equality: It’s part of a broader politically regressive campaign to undo 1948, to, as Eylon Levy framed it, “forcibly disposes Jews of a fundamental right they currently enjoy as Jews” while “disregarding the beliefs, agency and aspirations of most of the world’s Jews”.
The fact is that neither Hage nor media outlets which publish such op-eds are rarely willing to engage honestly with the real-world impact of their radical political project on the lives of Jews, an elision which impoverishes the public debate about BDS for sure, but also makes a mockery of the movement’s claim to represent anything resembling true progressive values.