A swastika spray-painted on a sidewalk, a synagogue window shattered, a yeshivah vandalized, and a man’s yarmulke knocked off his head. These are all acts of anti-Semitism, but today, some gestures are not that obvious. Today, hate has taken on many new faces.
Anti-Semitism is nothing new. But it is no longer about banning Jews from country clubs and universities; it is no longer about assaulting Jews in public (although that has been occurring recently.) Instead, in an age when most people know it is wrong to despise a racial group based on their ethnicity, it has morphed into a more politically correct and socially acceptable methodology. Anti-Semitism today is often cloaked with the veil of anti-Zionism. But it’s hard to hate a country that distributes so much aid to the less fortunate. It’s hard to hate a country that contributes so much to the fields of medicine and technology, and it’s hard to hate a country that is one of the first to respond to other countries when they are faced with natural disasters. So to make the hatred more tolerable, haters have trickled their agenda into the food industry where it can become more appetizing to the masses.
I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Anti-Semitism
They say there is no point in crying over spilled milk, but this latest seemingly anti-Trump move reeks of latent anti-Semitism.
Major ice cream manufacturer Ben and Jerry’s launched a new flavor called PeCan Resist as a way to promote social activism. As stated on their webpage, the agenda here is to “stand with women, immigrants, people of color, and the millions of activists and allies who are courageously resisting the President’s attack on our values, humanity, and environment. We celebrate the diversity of our glorious nation and raise our spoons in solidarity for all Americans.”
Sounds enticing, no?
Well, chew on this.
The problem here lies in the fact that in their quest for social justice, Ben and Jerry’s has aligned themselves with the Women’s March movement. The organization is co-chaired by Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American liberal activist who supports the movement to boycott Israel, and Tamika Mallory, a vocal supporter of Louis Farrakhan, the unapologetically anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader. Sarsour has said publicly in many speeches that we need not “humanize” Israelis. Mallory attended a speech where Farrakhan said Jews are “the synagogue of Satan, and Jews have wrapped their tentacles around the US government and are deceiving and sending this nation to hell.” He also recently referred to Jews as termites. Mallory doesn’t object to his sentiments, and in fact, even posed for a picture with Farrakhan referring to him as “the GOAT” (Greatest Of All Time).
Ben and Jerry’s is well aware of the controversial comments and admits that while they do not agree 100% with all of their sentiments, they believe their work is important and are “proud to join in that effort.”
In the five days since the release, Ben and Jerry’s stock rose by 4.74%. Thousands of comments on their Facebook page applaud the company’s move.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold, and that is exactly what is happening at some grocery stores.
The biggest haters of delicious Jewish food are not those who are watching their weight but those that run the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). BDS is a global campaign that started in 2005 which promotes various forms of boycott and international sanctions against Israel as a way to bring awareness to Israel’s alleged violation of international law. They choose to hurt Israel financially by protesting all Israeli cultural affairs and boycotting companies that engage in business with Israel. What is interesting is they do not boycott products from other countries accused of occupation, turn a blind eye to the major injustices committed by some Muslim countries, and ignore the fact that by harming the Israeli economy they are in essence harming the very people they aim to help.
Sabra products, specifically their very popular hummus spread, has been a source of malice for Student’s for Justice of Palestine (SJP) and BDS. They frequently protest the selling of the Middle Eastern chickpea dip on college campuses and major retailers. Sabra is half-owned by the Strauss Group, which has publicly supported the IDF by providing care packages and sports equipment to Israeli soldiers. “This lack of choice is particularly egregious and violent for Princetonians of Arab descent, who cannot eat the food that is quintessential to their culture unless they are willing to support crimes against their own people,” claimed president of the Princeton Committee for Palestine Gabriel Bitran in 2001, referring to sale of Sabra spreads at university-run stores.
Another company on BDS’s hit list is Nestle, a multinational food and beverage company whose headquarters are in Switzerland. Nestle runs a research and development center based in Sderot, a settlement just under a mile away from the Gaza Strip. BDS does not approve of Nestle’s close economic relationship with Israel, in part due to their shares in Osem Investments, one of Israel’s largest food manufacturers and distributors. What makes the Nestle protest so unique is that BDS even encourages Americans to boycott Friskies cat food and Poland Spring water despite the fact they are not made or sold in Israel because “the mere 50-50 shares Nestle has with Osem make Nestle a beneficiary of financial profit deriving from Israel.”
SodaStream, a popular and profitable Israeli company that markets home-based water carbonation systems, was forced to shut down their main production facility in Mishor Adumim after intense media scrutiny by BDS who accused the company of taking advantage of Palestinian workers. They also accused the company of profiting by being situated in the West Bank and avoiding paying Israeli taxes. SodaStream was forced to relocate to a less controversial area in the Negev. BDS saw this as a victory, despite the layoffs of over 500 Palestinian workers who were earning above minimum wage. CEO Daniel Birnbaum told media outlets he is convinced there is anti-Semitism behind the move since SodaStream built the most technologically advanced and largest factory in the West Bank history. Birnbaum also says that they were the largest private employer of Palestinians in the world.
If BDS was really about supporting Palestinians, it doesn’t sound like closing a major plant that employees hundreds of them would be a good idea. SodaStream was sold to PepsiCo in Aug. for 3.2 billion. When someone questioned on their site how Palestinians benefit from such bans, BDS responded, “The ultimate goal of equitable, peaceful and respectful co-existence in historical Palestine far outweighs any temporary hurdles that may arise as a result of BDS.”
Ironically, all SodaStream products produced today, which are sold in the countries that boycotted Israel, now derive from a factory in China, which is named one of the world’s twelve most repressive societies by Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world.
It is interesting to note that McDonalds and KFC (non-Jewish run companies) are not singled out for boycotts by BDS despite their popularity in Israel because as BDS notes they are “not priorities for the movement at this stage….. companies are selected for a variety of reasons, including context sensitivity.”
Sugar ‘n Spice with a Pinch of Hate
Even something as basic as table salt has been under scrutiny. Kosher salt, so-called for its use in kashering meat, has been frivolously criticized by some as being a “Jewish salt.” There is even a thread on various white supremacist sites (Stormfront.org, for example) where they claim that kosher salt is used to help fund the kashrus industry and link it to anti-Christian conspiracies. Some members have complained on forums that they do not want to prepare their food with a “Jewish salt” and have posed the question of what can be used as a replacement. If you think this is just a silly conversation by some racists, think again. A company called Ingredients Corporation of America is now marketing “Blessed Christian Salt”, sea salt blessed by an Episcopalian priest for this very reason.
Apparently the greatest thing since sliced bread for some members of the BDS and SJP members is displaying their dormant Jewish hatred in food items like Jewish rye. A tweet posted by a BDS member included a photograph of a packaged loaf of “Mill Jewish Rye Bread” with the word “Jewish” circled along with the comment, “Now I know what bread to never buy.”
Prejudice and Produce at the Checkout Counter
There have been several reports of kosher food, mostly Israeli made, being boycotted from being sold in stores. Olympia Food Co-op in Washington made headlines back in 2015 when under much debate voted to stop selling Israeli products in their diverse store. It was a bizarre move considering that only nine products were in question during this public controversary. This was more about making a political statement since they became the first US grocery store to de-shelve Israeli foods. Although the co‐op is a small store in a small city, the boycott hit the international airwaves and encouraged more to follow suit.
The Irish Senate approved a bill boycotting Israeli settlement goods, and one branch of Sainsbury (in Holborn), a major retailer in central London, removed all kosher food from its shelves over fears that anti-Israeli protesters would attack it. Ironically, the kosher food was made in the UK and Poland -not Israel- which just reaffirms that this is a Jewish issue. Complaints on Sainsbury’s Facebook page quickly followed. Gavin Platman, a Jewish customer, said the move blurred the line between a political statement and a hate crime. He wrote, “I presume you are aware that Kosher food is produced in countries other than Israel? You are therefore not making a political statement against Israel but instead are targeting a group based on race – i.e. Jews.” Management did not respond.
Food for Though
One has to wonder why there is so much tension tied to food. How can food elicit so much protest? Anytime there is a disproportionate reaction to anything, one must dig beneath the surface to uncover the source, and this case the source stinks of Jew hatred. Anti-Semitism is a bitter pill to swallow, but today it is made more palatable under the guise of food.
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