Podcast / On The Nose
On the Nose is our biweekly podcast. The editorial staff discusses the politics, culture, and questions that animate today’s Jewish left.
Rallies, Surveys, and Ice Cream
Duration
0:00 / 01:29:18
Published
July 27, 2021

It’s been a rough few weeks for the “pro-Israel” establishment, from a pitiful showing at the “No Fear” rally against antisemitism (whose “big tent” excluded non-Zionists), to the release of a Jewish Electorate Institute survey of American Jewish voters showing surprisingly prevelant left-wing attitudes about Israel, to last week’s announcement that Ben & Jerry’s will stop selling ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories. Editor-in-chief Arielle Angel, culture editor Ari M. Brostoff, assistant editor Mari Cohen, and contributing editor Joshua Leifer discuss these developments, what they suggest about evolving public opinion among American Jews, and what questions they raise about Jewish institutional engagement and political education.

Articles Mentioned:

Jewish Electorate Institute’s “July 2021 National Survey of Jewish Voters

I helped organize the Washington rally against antisemitism. It wasn’t perfect, but it was necessary” by Elisha Wiesel

How Zionism complicated a Capitol rally against antisemitism” by Arno Rosenfeld

No More Slogans” by Bruce Abramson and Jeff Ballabon

Are 95% of Jews Really Zionists?” by Caroline Morganti

The Genocide of the Palestinian People: An International and Human Rights Perspective

The question of genocide in Palestine, 1948: an exchange between Martin Shaw and Omer Bartov

What Happened to IfNotNow?” by Aaron Freedman

Avodah Considers Stepping Out on Israel/Palestine” by Mari Cohen

Ben & Jerry’s Tests Anti-BDS Laws” by Mari Cohen

Books Mentioned:

Politicide: The Real Legacy of Ariel Sharon by Baruch Kimmerling

Thanks to Santiago Helou Quintero for producing and to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”


Transcript

Arielle Angel: Welcome back to the third episode of On The Nose. I’m Arielle Angel, I’m the Editor-in-Chief of Jewish Currents. This week, I’m joined by Mari Cohen, Assistant Editor, Ari Brostoff, Culture Editor and Josh Leifer, Contributing Editor to Jewish Currents. And we’re going to be talking about the very, very long week that the pro-Israel establishment has had, starting with last Sunday’s march on the Capitol, The No Fear march against antisemitism, which drew a pathetic couple hundred people, which is really a sad number of people to gather on the National Mall. And followed by a study that came out of the Jewish electorate, which showed especially young Jewish attitudes and opinions towards Israel as being a lot farther to the left than many of us, even among this group, supposed. And, third, the meltdown over Ben & Jerry’s deciding not to sell in the occupied West Bank and in settlements. So I thought we would just start by taking these in chronological order and talking a bit about the No Fear March.

Mari Cohen: Hi, I’m Mari, I’m the Assistant Editor and I can provide a little bit of background on this rally that we’re talking about. My understanding from the reporting on it is that it started with groups more to the right, like Stand With Us, Zionist Organization of America, that were trying to put together this rally. I think it initially started with just one activist, but the groups that first got on board were these right wing groups, so it got branded as a right wing effort. And then Elisha Wiesel, the son of Elie Wiesel, got involved and tried to make it a bigger thing. He was able to get more mainstream groups like the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee on board, but they were trying to make it this broader bipartisan effort, get Americans for Peace Now, J Street, these more leftist progressive groups on board, and they weren’t able to do that because it started coming from the right. These more progressive groups saw it as this more right wing effort that was really about conflating antisemitism with anti-Zionism and were less interested in signing on. So from the beginning, it was beset by these various factional issues. And then they did get the major denominations involved, like Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, but because of a lot of the infighting, they were really not able to turn out many people for this. We’re going to talk about why we think that is. The organizers reported 2,000. Elisha himself wrote an op-ed in the JTA and reported 3,000 people, but the organizers famously like to report large numbers, and the Washington Post said they saw several 100 were there, which was also the number that was repeated in op-eds from across the political spectrum complaining about the turnout. So it seems like they did not get a lot of people to come. I watched a little bit of a YouTube video of the rally. It did not look super impressive, numbers-wise.

AA: They also famously put out a statement that was like “we are big tent, except if you are not a Zionist.” So it’s just the classic Jewish establishment definition of “big tent,” or “pluralism,” or whatever. Everyone except for what we now know as the full quarter of Jews who are less than thrilled about the conflation of Judaism with an ongoing military occupation.

MC: Yeah, and it’s kind of interesting. The left is like “this thing is really messed up and we don’t agree with a lot of what was said, and also haha, not that many people showed up.” And the right is also like “oh my gosh, you like couldn’t even get people to come out for this rally, It’s because you ceded too much to the left.” It kind of really is an example of the way that—one thing we also learn from this poll that we’re going to talk about—is just the extent to which American Jews are really politically polarized on both ends. They made a statement, I think conceding to groups like the URJ, to be like “antisemitism is connected to other oppressions,” and that they oppose other oppressions as well. And the right was really mad about that, because this takes the focus off antisemitism. So it’s very hard for them to find ways to coalesce around anything. And the right’s like “well, you didn’t get enough people to show up.” People on Tablet, Algemeiner are writing stuff like that, “you didn’t get enough people to show up because you were not hardline enough.” So it exposes a lot of discontent on multiple sides of the political spectrum.

Joshua Leifer: I think the politics of who was there and the speakers is sort of interesting, in the sense that they went with this radical centrist vibe, but that positioning is literally the least-well represented view among American Jews as far as polling goes. These are all people who are like “the left antisemitism is as much a problem as right antisemitism.” If there was a big picture extrapolation, that would be what they were saying, whether it was Elisha Wiesel or Meghan McCain being there. But the percentage of the American Jewish population, at least according to the Jewish Electorate Institute poll, who have those views is very, very small. The centrists imagine that they speak for a silent majority, but they actually speak for a very small segment of the American Jewish community writ large. Bari Weiss who has this pretension, says, almost like it’s an incantation, that she’s representative of the of the silent majority of American Jews. But that’s not borne out in polling. And I also think like someone like Elisha Wiesel, who’s got a background in Goldman Sachs, who’s spent a lot of time around the Jewish organizational world, thinks they’re really important and encounters people all the time who know who he is, but doesn’t realize that no one outside of this very rarefied world knows who he is. And so they were like, “we’re going to do this big thing, and I’m a big thing. I’ve got all these machers who are behind me, and we’re going to do a rally.” And then no one shows up because they don’t realize that there’s this massive disconnect between people operating within that very insular Jewish philanthropic world and your average American Jew who has very little contact with those organizations.

AA: Sounds like also, from what we’ve been hearing, even the bigger groups were not actually that interested in participating in this rally for reasons that I actually don’t understand. The ADL has been beating the drum about heightened antisemitism since the violence in May in Israel/Palestine and basically trying to connect that violence to anti-Zionism or criticism of Israel, which may or may not be the motivating factor. I think it’s probably likely that some of it is and, of course, there was this high profile stabbing of a Habad rabbi in Boston, and so I’m confused as to why the ADL might want to distance itself from this kind of rally. Maybe just because they recognized that it didn’t really have the institutional base, they anticipated the fact that it would show weakness, which is what it ultimately did.

MC: Is the ADL ever particularly good at popular mobilization in that way? Do they ever really turn out a lot of people at rallies? I feel like they’re very good at lobbying, and they produce a lot of reports, and they shape the media narrative, but I don’t know if this sort of grassroots rally mobilization is really in their wheelhouse. But obviously, the American Jewish mainstream community has done it before. The Forward is comparing these numbers to 2002, when 100,000 people attended a solidarity rally in support of Israel, or 250,000 on behalf of Soviet Jews in 1987, compared to this, somewhere around maybe 1,000, we don’t really know. But I don’t know if that’s really a very recent thing for a lot of these major Jewish organizations, in terms of turning out mass political mobilization on the streets.

JL: Well, that’s a long time ago. The Soviet Jewry movement, that’s a different political epoch. And then the Intifada is almost 20 years ago. And I think that the American Jewish communities’ mass-mobilization muscle is really attenuated. I think the most recent comparison, if we were going to think about it, would be the January 2020 one after that wave of antisemitism. And that pulled, generously we’ll say 25,000 people in New York and that was a big ADL stamped, Federation stamped. But they also bussed in a ton of day school people and shuls and communities. There was more grassroots communal buy-in, but at the same time, 25,000 people in New York, the most Jewish city in the Western Hemisphere is also not a lot of people. I think that if there’s any indication, these are not events that a lot of American Jews feel strongly about attending. And as we all experienced, we were at the one in Brooklyn in 2020, that was a really right wing protest. We had to leave the procession part of it, because people recognized that some of the people we were marching with were “if not now”-ers, and then like this contingent was threatening to beat up—it was a horrible experience. But it was like there’s not a lot of common ground to have one of these sorts of things. And even the big tent ones sort of devolved into shouting between Trump and non-Trump Jews. And I think the pro-Trump Jews were way overrepresented, because they’re the people who tend to want to show Jewish muscle at these public protests. I also think the branding of all of these is always so funny. They’re calling this rally “No Fear,” but at the same time, it’s this entirely Judeo-pessimist ideology that’s actually telling Jews, “No, you should be fearful, you need to be afraid. Antisemitism is everywhere.” The whole thing doesn’t make any sense in terms of what they’re trying to tell the audience. It’s the opposite of no fear. We’re so fearful that we have to do immoral things to secure the Jewish future.

Ari Brostoff: I’m just struck by something that we’ve talked about on staff from time to time, which is the way that it seems like there’s not a lot of charismatic Zionist spokespeople at this point in the US. This is a point that, Josh, you’ve made some times. There just aren’t a lot of people to even have that personal ability to either draw a crowd or attract media the way that there used to be. And I think that the the shift from Elie Weisel, who presumably would have been a central figure in a rally like this before his death, which was just a few years ago, and his son, who just seems like this nobody who wrote the saddest op-ed after the march saying, essentially, “Well, we tried, and it sucks that everybody hates us, that we’re beleaguered from the left and the right, but we’re doing the best we can. And by the way, I never wanted to lead this anyway, I just wanted to go to one, but they made me do it.” And I wouldn’t say that’s a really powerful show of leadership. It occurs to me that this is partly a post-Trump difference too, because you had people like Alan Dershowitz, who would have also presumably been important figures at a march like this in the past, and they’re fully discredited now.

AA: I’ve had a hypothesis that we know that the silent majority of Jewish Americans are progressive and secular—way more progressive than regular Americans, except on Israel. And I’ve always felt part of that was just default, that there was really nothing pushing them. There was no media that was pushing them. They really were allowed to be insulated from whatever those pressures are. Because they were influencing the overall environment around this conversation more than it was influencing them. And I think that simply isn’t true anymore. And that you are starting to see these people move. We were talking this morning about J Street and about the way in which, a couple of years ago, they were really opposed to selective boycotts of the settlements. And now suddenly with this Ben & Jerry’s thing, they’re really staking some of their clout on this to try to shore up support. I think we’ve been saying this is where the wind is blowing for a long time without really having any proof of it. But I think that these kinds of things and the decline of the influence of the kind of figure you’re talking about, Ari, really speaks to that. I was really struck as a companion piece to Elisha Weisel’s piece, the Jeff Ballabon piece in Tablet, which I highly recommend just because it’s a really fabulous romp. But also because he says a lot of things where I’m like, “Yeah, you you get em,” in terms of things that we would say, except then he’ll follow it up with a whole bunch of stuff that we would never agree with, but just about the total ineptitude and weakness of these institutions. There was a time when someone like Jeff Ballabon would actually feel represented by these institutions. What I think is striking is that actually, no one does.

JL: That’s what I was thinking also with the radical center politics, because Jeff, as a Orthodox political operator, and the constituents he represents, they also do show up in the public opinion. That’s the 20 to 30% that also is annexationist and one state-ist for Jews. And the quarter to a third of the American Jewish community that votes for Republicans who are almost entirely Orthodox. And as the Orthodox community has become more politically assertive, they’ve also grown frustrated with the bipartisan radical centrism of the establishment because they want red meat, they want the hardcore Jewish power politics. And they’ve also been co-opted by the Trump media and Republican brainwashing generally. And so they’re also not really grounded in the same political reality as the establishment who still walk around in vaguely Liberal Democratic circles. And then you also have, on the other side, the hardcore liberal, probably more than half of American Jewry whose political identity and religious identity is the Democratic Party, and are really not going to accept a communal vibe that views the Democrats as the main source of antisemitism, which is what Ballabon and people who are in the Orthodox and right wing media side of the Jewish community think. That Joe Biden is enabling pogroms because he hasn’t censured Ilhan Omar. That’s what is happening in that corner.

AA: Right? The biggest Zionist figurehead speaker was Meghan McCain, who is a non-Jewish Republican. To the extent that suburban Jewish moms watch The View, they are not identifying with Meghan McCain.

JL: No, not at all.

AB: Yeah, that’s super interesting. That almost seems like a way that the US could start to look more like the situation in Germany, where the antisemitism czar is this totally right wing, philosemitic, non-Jew.

AA: Felix Klein

AB: Felix Klein, yeah.

AA: Well, I just want to, for fun, read this one choice quote from Ballabon because I think it’s so great. “The dismal outcome was inevitable as The No Fear campaign suffered from at least two obvious flaws. Its message is inane and its leadership is unserious.” Sorry, I just think that’s so funny and good. Because it is inane and that leadership is unserious, but then again, whatever comes after that is truly insane.

MC: This is our horseshoe theory of Jewish politics.

AA: Well maybe this is a good segue to the polarization of that Jewish Electorate Institute poll, because something that we did see is 20% is for one equal state. And 20% is for annexation without equal rights. So what do we do with that?

MC: Yeah, I think maybe we should just give some quick background on the poll too. We’ve been referring to it throughout this episode. This was a Jewish Electorate Institute poll that came out last week and caused a lot of stir in the communal discourse. It was conducted between June 28th and July 1st among 800 voters. The Jewish Electorate Institute, it should be noted, is a project of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which we can get back to later because I think it’s interesting in some ways, which results the Jewish Democrats are really excited about here and which ones they are not saying a peep about in their promos. They asked a lot of political questions, trying to get a portrait of the electorate. And there’s similar questions to what’s been asked in previous polls. Things around support for Biden, emotional attachment to Israel, that kind of thing. And a lot of those results are very consistent with what we’ve seen in previous polls. But most polls, when they’re surveying the Jewish community, as we’ve found in our reporting, they don’t ask more granular political questions around Israel. And this poll did. It kind of snuck them in, not even really in the Israel section, it was this section about things that you think are antisemitic, but then it got out people’s political opinions about Israel. But basically, there’s a couple of questions that are kind of interesting to go over. Similar to other surveys, 62% of the people surveyed said they were very attached to Israel. 38% less attached. In terms of aid, this will come up later, maybe when we talk about Ben & Jerry’s a little bit, and the settlements, perhaps. But this question of conditional aid, 71% of those surveyed said that they think aid to Israel is very important. 25% said not important, and then 58% support restricting aid. So it can’t be used to expand settlements, and 25%. oppose. It should just be noted for all of these numbers, as one might expect, when you look at just the Orthodox, the numbers totally flip. Where a majority say the aid shouldn’t be restricted, that kind of thing.

AA: If you look at youth also, the numbers become very different, because youth are generally more left on all of these issues.

MC: Yeah, exactly. And then, as Arielle was just referring to, they asked about what people want for an ultimate solution. So you got 61%, who would prefer a two state solution, so that still is kind of the majority consensus, but 21% who prefer one democratic state with equal rights for everyone that’s not identified as a Jewish state. And I think that’s pretty striking because a lot of times the discourse, as we’ve seen, tends to be 95% of American Jews are Zionists. And we’ve poked holes in some of that before, but it’s pretty clear that we’ve got 20% of Jews here in this poll saying that they’d prefer this one democratic state, which you could argue is a Zionist position. But I think you could also very much argue that that’s an anti-Zionist position. But then you also have 19% saying that they just want Israel to annex the West Bank, and that basically, Palestinians will not have national voting rights and it will be a Jewish state. So that’s this polarization where things are moving towards the edges on both sides. And then finally, they asked people about whether they agreed with different statements around Israel and whether they thought they were antisemitic. And some of the things that were really striking is that 25% of respondents said that they thought that Israel was an apartheid state. 22% said that they thought Israel was committing genocide against the Palestinians. And 34% say that they thought Israel’s treatment of Palestinians was similar to racism in the United States. And then among Jews under 40, those numbers are even more striking. 20% of Jews under 40 said that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist. 33% say Israel is committing genocide. 38% say Israel is committing apartheid, and 43% say similar to racism against Palestinians.

AA: Sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh. I don’t know why I’m laughing.

JL: It’s funny because they’re numbers that, if you had asked me last week, I would have never been able to come up with this. And we spend all day all of our lives talking about what do Jews under 40 think. And the idea that 20% of the Jews under 40 say Israel has no right to exist—that’s the most extreme position that I’d ever heard anyone take and most people I know are hardcore lefty anarchists or tankies, or people like that were like “no state has any right to exist.” I was talking to some people who are involved in If Not Now about this, and part of If Not Now’s DNA isn’t geared towards this reality. Maybe that’s not true. But these polling numbers outflank what was considered the left-most limit of Jewish communal opinion by a lot, I think. That’s my take on this.

AA: It’s amazing too, because you have Morriah Kaplan, who works for IfNotNow, in some report on this. I can’t remember which one.

MC: It was in The Forward, I think.

AA: We don’t know what’s happening there. When the Movement for Black Lives platform came out using the word “genocide,” it tore IfNotNow apart. I remember the heart rending conversations that people were having. People who themselves are descendants of Holocaust survivors and who were very committed to Justice in Palestine and very committed to the Movement for Black Lives, but were really uncomfortable with the use of this word. And it’s pretty interesting. There’s a few questions that come up in light of all of this, and a lot of it has to do—a lot of the establishment people are really concerned about education, like we must be failing in Israel education if this is what people think. And then of course, you have other people who are like, well, if they really knew what was going on, the numbers would be even higher. But I do think that the question about genocide is an interesting case study in terms of education. I’ll let Josh summarize some of what an academic that you were corresponding with was talking about regarding the genocide debate in particular.

JL: It’s related to what the IfNotNow piece that Aaron Freedman wrote was trying to get at, what you’re talking about, Arielle, about the people in IfNotNow struggling around the term genocide in 2016, when the Movement for Black Lives platform came out, I think that was a reflection of how a lot of people who were involved in IfNotNow still had political formations that were shaped by the engagement with mainstream institutions and mainstream Jewish life, day camps, day schools, all of that. And that, for the most part, the people involved in IfNotNow weren’t from outside of the community, or people who didn’t really have any interface with the institutions or with Jewish education, period. And so after I tweeted a little bit about this, an academic reached out to me and sent me a few emails. And I thought he had some interesting points about there’s a whole segment of the American Jewish population that really is outside of the community, period. And his hypothesis about where this genocide number comes from is that these are young Jews who are primarily getting their information about Israel/Palestine from social media and from Palestinian social media in particular. I think that’s compelling, because I don’t know, even in my own life, other than reporting on this, I don’t know actually a lot of people who would say that Israel is committing a genocide other than a few of the more strident pro-Palestine activists on Twitter. Most people I engage with day to day, whether they’re Palestinian policy analysts, or Israeli or whatever, they mostly tend to shy away from that particular terminology. But I guess the one place where we have seen it flourish without a lot of critical engagement has been social media. And it’s funny to hear David Harris say we need to improve Israel education. Jewish education in America, writ large, has long been a joke. It’s not just Israel education that’s failed, most Americans don’t have that kind of literacy about their own identities. And so I would say the other way, it shouldn’t actually be so surprising that these numbers are as determined as they are by what’s happening on social media, because that is mostly where, if this is any indication, like a third of American Jews primary engagement with their Jewish identities is happening.

AB: I think there’s almost two different intersecting conversations here in that the percentage around saying Israel’s committing genocide in particular brings up. One is about whether that is, in fact, a claim that we would want to get behind, let’s say, or kind of what are the political stakes of that claim? Which is something that is just actually very much up for debate among people who have no qualms at all about saying Israel is an apartheid state, Israel is a settler colony. But genocide, this is maybe a conversation for another time, but I was talking to one of our contributors, Zoé Samudzi, about this several weeks ago when we were discussing getting into some of this language during the recent Gaza War. And Zoé—who’s a scholar of genocide, among other things—when I said point blank what do you think, yay or nay? She said something that I thought was so interesting, which is that genocide is actually a different kind of term than a lot of these other terms like, like settler colonialism, like apartheid, and so forth. It really has a very particular legal meaning that comes out of the post-holocaust moment and the international law that was created then. And actually, that international legal framework, in itself, has often favored Western colonizing forces and de-politicized what genocide even means to begin with. And so her take was that it may be less of a relevant question, “Is Israel committing genocide,” and more of a relevant question, “Is genocide a useful category to think with at all to describe the destruction of peoples and their worlds,” if it winds up not seeming to apply to the situation in which Palestinians and their world is being destroyed. I thought that was super interesting. And again, that might be a conversation to get into more another time. I think the other question that the use of “genocide” raises, as it’s coming out in this poll, is more related to what Arielle and Josh were just talking about, in terms of a very rough taxonomy that’s been coming up in conversation of the gap between anti-Zionists, or let’s say American Jews who are very critical of Israel and are coming at those politics from a place of intense engagement with the American Jewish establishment—often because they come from that world—and then on the other hand, American Jews who have come to anti-Zionist politics without much engagement with that world, but rather just through generally being leftist progressives and having just kind of absorbed that politics in a less, parochial way, but also often a way that is less in touch with the contours of the fights within American Jewish politics. And it’s a really interesting split that I’ve seen really opening a lot recently, and I think it’s productive actually. Since I’m in the former category, I’ve had interesting moments of tension with friends in the latter category, who are like, “Oh my god, like we don’t fucking care—what is this Jewish establishment? We don’t care. I’m a Jew. I don’t need to create my politics around Israel/Palestine or anything else in relation to this establishment that does not represent me.” It’s like you almost hear them saying “We don’t have a pope...what?”

JL: What is the Conference of Presidents? What is it?

AB: Right, exactly. No one’s ever heard of it. It’s a joke. Right. But then on the other hand, I have sometimes said back “Well, yes, but in terms of just an analysis of power, if we want to win here, to the extent that, as a Jew in the present moment, one is implicated in it the subordination of Palestinians, then it does seem like it’s incumbent upon oneself to have some kind of relationship to the forces of power that are doing that in your name.” And I know, this is very related to the the old debates around IfNotNow strategy and so forth. I’m not saying that means the answer is we have to go in and take on the institutions as such, or something like that. I think it’s fine to disengage, but this is what the word “genocide” is setting off. There’s something that feels nonspecific about it, or not connected to that anti-Zionist framework that is actually...

AA: It feels untethered.

AB: It feels a little untethered to the movement. Yeah.

AA: I have a lot that I’m thinking about this. I’ve been reading a little bit, even just in the last couple of days, preparing for the conversation around genocide. It is a legal framework, but it seems like—and I’m not an expert on this, so I could be totally off here—but it seems like there are some things that apply really directly, and some things that apply less directly. But also, there is a very staggering violence that is planned, and that is intending to break down this group of people, to fragment them to displace them, all of these other things. And there’s a lot of questions about “is ethnic cleansing on its own genocide?” But the question really comes down to if we apply this word really broadly, then does it mean anything at all? We need to preserve the integrity of the word “genocide” so that we can actually apply it when something is actually happening. And it seems to me, I feel very strongly that there is genocidal actions being taken out with genocidal intent. And that may not add up to a full “genocide” or something in my own idiosyncratic definition, but I’m okay with using the word because the word is intended to be used to mobilize resources in order to stop the thing. And whatever is happening over there is sufficiently bad that we should probably try to stop it or mobilize all those resources to do so. Sorry, go ahead Josh. I’m getting somewhere.

JL: I want to object to that. Because I think there are two uses for a term like this. And they’re different. And when you were talking, it was surfacing the conflict between the two. I think this is related to a meta conversation about our own role as Jewish Currents. But I think you’re right, certainly—and we’ve been seeing this play out—that genocide is an effective mobilizing rhetoric, but I also think that as intellectuals, as journalists, as thought leaders, we also have an obligation to try to convey as descriptive, detailed, and accurate portrayal of what’s happening on the ground as possible. For example, I personally think that like the late Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling’s term “politicide” is more accurate, because if you look at the way that Israel has planned its policies towards the Palestinians,. it’s not necessarily bent on exterminating Palestinians as biological beings, but as a nation, as a people, while keeping, in some instances, their physical survival in the land. There are different tendencies and I agree that there is genocidal intent and there are genocidal Israeli politicians who talk in those terms, but I think there’s nuance and complexity if I were to write and try to analyze and give an account of what the Israeli government’s main objective in how it really is interacting with the Palestinians. But the other thing I wanted to say, the reason I think it’s related to the Currents’ meta conversation—this takes us a little bit afield from the genocide conversation—but we all had to learn a little bit about the establishment when we started working at Jewish Currents and began to write. What does that mean, actually, for how we relate to a broader American Jewish audience? Is there something in our own focus on these organizations that actually cuts us off from the audience we want to reach because we have gone through this process where we’re now high information, high engagement, leftist Jews. But most of the people who are sympathetic to our politics—I don’t mean this in a pejorative way—are lower information, just because they’re not reading the minutes from Jewish organizations or trying to figure out how the hell do people get elected through WZO elections, which is an organization that like 4% of American Jews probably know about. And so we spent all of our time doing this and like getting engaged in the arcana of the communal establishment organizations when maybe there’s something else more urgent and more pressing and related to American Jews lives that we should be focusing on. That’s a bracketed side question.

AA: I was actually heading there, so I’m sorry, that we got sidetracked. First of all, Josh, I do agree with you that it matters. But what I’m saying is that the debate here is actually about whether genocide should be broadly applied, or specifically applied. And I’m saying that I don’t mind the broad application of genocide, because I think that genocide is a part of the way that nations interact with one another, and it is kind of normal. And so the idea of it being normalized doesn’t bother me. And there are very broad points in terms of these definitions that actually do describe what’s happening in part. The definition itself says “destruction in whole or in part with intent,” they are really broad. I’m not saying this on the account of let’s just do it because it’s convenient or it helps, I’m saying that I’m not opposed to a broad definition period. The question is whether it matters that there’s this group of people that are “on our side” that actually aren’t steeped in these kinds of debates. And I was trying to put on the hats of the Yehuda Kurtzers or Yael Hirschhorns, these people who are our center-right interlocutors in terms of lamenting the lack of education. And I do think that there’s a way that could be bad. Where I do think it’s actually our responsibility to speak to them in our language as opposed to in theirs, because I do think that there’s a way especially if we’re talking about the internet as being a mediator or an interlocutor, in all of this—just the medium by which information is coming out—then really, you’re talking about loud voices on Twitter or on Instagram and those voices become, when people say “listen to Palestinians,” who are you actually talking about? And usually people are talking about a few of these accounts. And to the extent that we actually want to have a real conversation about what happens, not a reflexively militant conversation—and I’m not afraid of the militancy, but of the reflexiveness of that conversation—we need to be able to say “let’s dig in here.” Because otherwise, the conversation becomes really too narrow or too homogenous in an artificial way. Does that make sense?

JL: I’m not sure what you mean, actually.

AA: I just mean to say we are the minority in the conversation with Jews who are less engaged who are learning or picking up this language from the internet, basically. The people who are basically saying apartheid and genocide are essentially the same thing or “I don’t know what genocide is, but this is happening.” And the question is whether we should move to meet them where they are, or even whether there’s a problem that they are in that place without a lot of education. Whether we’re just like “welcome aboard,” or whether we’re like “maybe you should learn some of this stuff.” And I’m saying there is there is a danger to that position being the dominant position, because there’s a danger of purity politics taking over, of reflexive militancy without any relationship to what’s going on on the ground, to a conflation of a few loud voices on Twitter to “the Palestinian position” writ large, which is not the case. So I think we do need to push back a little bit on some of this stuff and reclaim some of that nuance also, because it doesn’t accurately reflect the ground that politics is being fought on.

AB: Here’s the thing, though, that I think we inevitably circle back to in any conversation about polling. What is the actual relationship between what people tell pollsters and what they actually believe in a meaningful way and how they act in the world? And this is obviously something that we’ve written about before—Mari’s written about this, in terms of the Jewish polling industry, in particular. But I think there’s also a much larger question about what polling actually produces, as opposed to merely reflects about popular opinion. And this has been a big debate on the left in the past few years. Leftists will sometimes celebrate polls that say 60% of Americans support universal healthcare, or whatever the statistic may be. And that’s great, it’s morale boosting to hear the people are on our side, but it’s actually declaring victory too soon. Because it then suggests all we need to do is mobilize them to vote for the next Bernie Sanders, and then it’s just gonna happen, the thing will call itself into being. This is the whole left populist strategy that has been much debated and, at least a national level, seems to have failed for the moment of trying to imagine an electorate that is actually further to the left in a meaningful way than it actually is. And that’s because polling can’t capture actual social institution building, it just captures what’s being asked. And so that’s what we ultimately come down to in a question like this. For the people who responded by saying Israel’s committing genocide, we don’t know what those people meant by that. Because that’s not what a poll can tell you.

AA: And it seems like your point too, is we also don’t know what they’re prepared to do about it.

JL: That’s the biggest thing that crosses over from the lesson of the Bernie years, is that these polls don’t assess the political education or engagement that the people who are responding in them have. And so I don’t think it’s likely at all that the majority of the people who said that Israel is committing genocide are going to go and show up at the next JVP rally. I don’t think those people are in our part of the organized Jewish left. Some certainly are, but I don’t think that the majority of them are. Maybe that’s wrong, but I have a hard time imagining that they are.

AB: Right. Exactly.

MC: I think that’s a useful reframe in a lot of ways, what you both said. I think many of us saw these results as something to be enthusiastic about. Obviously we have our qualms about some of the terminology and what it means. And I think that’s what’s really interesting about thinking through all of this and where people are getting their information and what it means about political education. But when we first heard this apartheid number, I think we were pretty cheered that it looks like the American Jewish public writ large, and younger people, are moving in this more left direction. But I think it is a useful reframe, what you’re talking about Ari, in terms of the limits of polling, to not take this as an already won victory. I think it really does relate to a lot of these left debates, including these debates about if we get too used to saying we’re organizing for things that people already really like so much, like Medicare for all, we already have the power because it’s so popular, then there becomes something that maybe isn’t always popular in polling, like defund the police. And then people say we shouldn’t do it, because it’s not popular. And I think we talked about this a couple weeks ago when talking about a different ADL poll that was less favorable, or even when we talked about the Pew poll, or what it means to have to organize for things, even when people aren’t necessarily on board. And it’s a useful corrective to say this means there might be more of an appetite for what we’re talking about, but there’s still a lot of work to do in terms of actually mobilizing people. And then also, that’s, in some ways, where this question of power analysis comes back. Because right now, the politically mobilized and powerful people are that loud minority, the dying right-centrist, Zionist Israel advocacy constituency. Those are the people who often make the most noise. And I think that is starting to change. So there’s a sense in which this result shows that these institutions are less relevant than ever. And yet, when it comes to what they’re able to do, in terms of how they can shape policy, they’re still quite relevant.

JL: But also, the challenge that they face actually isn’t that different from the one that the left wing organizations face in the end, which is that we live in a country where, barring a few exceptional things like the 2020 elections, political participation in America is very low. There are very few mass political organizations in the United States participatory communal life. This is like old school communitarian stuff about bowling alone, but it is true that there are not associational structures in American life that can get people from answering a question in a poll to going to a protest, or joining an organization to do something about it. And I think that what the Jewish establishment organizations and also the left wing organizations are facing is having trouble getting people to do stuff as Jews. That is not actually a salient mobilizing political identity. There aren’t forms of organizational life that are touching enough people for this to be felt. So you end up with rallies that are under-attended because those organizations don’t have a mass organic base that they can draw. But that also happens with the left all the time. It’s very funny to me to see them in that because we’ve all been in situations where...

AA: We’re just smart enough not to try to call a rally on the National Mall for God’s sakes, we’re like Grand Army Plaza, we can fill that with a couple hundred people.

JL: Right, but that’s an experience of a history of losing after a long time, where we learn how to modify the optics and they’re getting used to it on the other side, where they used to be able to fill a mall, but now it’s much harder to fill the mall with people as Jews.

AA: I want to ask one more question on this note, which is about whether Jewish establishment groups or whether Jewish groups in general have a responsibility to be democratic? I was very annoyed. I don’t want to talk too much about Yehuda Kurtzer on this podcast, although I do notice that he talks about us a lot on his podcast, so I guess we’re each other’s favorite bugbear. But he had this tweet basically being like, “well, I guess the Jewish communal leadership isn’t listening to the Israelites who made the golden calf,” something like that. And I find that a very annoying sentiment, but there is a legitimate question about whether they ever purported to be democratic, and whether they should be. And also whether our institutions are democratic. Most of the Jewish left is composed of nonprofit organizations, some of which are membership organizations. Most of them purport to be membership organizations and I think they have a very engaged constituency, but they’re not mass membership organizations. And also, democracy is okay, but ultimately we want good things to happen. And that’s not always popular. I think we’ve known that from being on the pro-Palestine left for a long time. So does it matter that these organizations are not Democratic? What if they were? Would that make a difference if they were garnering the support of just their constituents?

MC: Well if we say there is a big 20% bloc of people who want one democratic state in Israel/Palestine, that is big enough to be included, then are we also saying the 20% of American Jews who want an apartheid state in which Palestinians are subjugated, who explicitly want more of that with annexation of the West Bank, should they have equal representation? I would actually argue that, right now, those people have more representation functionally in these institutions.

AA: Oh, they definitely do. I just want to make it clear that when American Jewish organizations talk about pluralism, they include that 20% that wants annexation and exclude the 20% that wants equal rights. So there’s no equivalency in terms of who’s in and who’s out of the dominant conversation. But still, these polls are representing equal numbers from a purely—I don’t know, maybe this is the wrong question to be asking.

MC: I think it’s a useful question. I think so far, it’s been a point of strategy because the truth is they’re not democratic. It’s the same thing that happens with Medicare for all. It’s very useful right now to be like, “these are all the people who support this, you don’t speak for Jews.” That is just such an easy strategic point to make and can really do a lot of work to advance the things that we’re interested in and advance justice when we can say “you are not doing what the people want.” I think that’s a very compelling argument in American discourse. But then also, do we look at the Pew results and say only 10% of American Jews support BDS, so that’s out? I think the problem is when pluralism in itself becomes the driving value, because it’s not always necessarily political. It’s a particular political position in terms of a pro-democracy as a structure position, but saying that an organization is truly pluralistic has stood for this leftist idea in the Jewish world for a long time, because left groups are the ones that are excluding. But actually, that doesn’t functionally always mean that. And I think it’s true in the US too. Right now, if we say we want the United States to be more democratic, we mean that we want to curb the power of the right, because if this country were more democratic, liberals would be in power. But I think that we can’t confuse situation for the essence of what that means. Some organizations are confronting that right now. A piece I have out today about these more progressive organizations, like Avodah and Repair The World, that have actually been pluralist, in fact, in this way that most organizations aren’t in that they really do include a big tent of people with various opinions on Zionism. And now, a lot of participants are kind of saying this isn’t enough, you need to actually stand up and say something about Israel, about Palestine, you can’t just ignore it. But that also means maybe they can’t be a big tent, because then the more traditional Zionists, that’s not going to work as a place for them. That’s getting a little bit away from the democracy question, but I think the democracy question goes hand in hand with the pluralism question. And so you do kind of run into a wall with that.

JL: I don’t believe in there being like, cross-Jewish organizations, if that makes sense. If you look at the broader history of American Jewish politics, there were all of these associational organizations that had a range of different political valences whether they were socialist, or communist, or revisionist Zionist, or Zionist Marxist, or religious. There were a lot of organizations in the United States that existed and there was not an expectation that they would all agree about things. And I think that it was better. It also ahistorical to expect that all Jews are going to agree on issues of politics when that’s never been true in history. Some of the most generative but also ferocious political disputes in Jewish history are famously between Jews. We just had Tisha B’Av, that’s the ur-version of this, like it burnt part of the Jewish traditional corpus. But you can go back to Eastern Europe, when the Bundists are at odds with the Zionists, who were both at odds with the Orthodox establishment in the shtetl. There was infighting. And I think that all of the pre-existing Jewish communal infrastructure has basically died and what’s left are the legacy organizations. And so the legacy organizations are operating on a terrain without any real counterparts, but I also think part of that is a product of the particular kind of liberalism that we have in America. The American political system wants easy-to-identify communal interest groups. There’s this tick that I hate in journalism about “the black community,” or “the Jewish community,” or “the Latino community,” because power wants these easily nameable communities that it can dole out favors to in terms of support. But that always leads to a flattening of of those “communities,” and it can never do justice to what their actual politics are. And it also leaves the people on the margins of those communities at the mercy of whoever has managed to be the powerbroker at the front of those “communities.” So I have a whole distaste for the communalization of politics in that way. I think it’d be better if the Jewish community was comprised of a lot of mutually exclusive, political and confessional denominations and groups that didn’t have to come together. I think it would lead to a more vibrant communal life, because there wouldn’t be an expectation that we have to represent everyone, we just represent ourselves. But we that’s not what we have.

AA: But Amen to that. It’s actually really funny, because someone just came to me because they’re going to be working on a, let’s call it a new JCC, that they want to be very inclusive. And they were asking my advice, and I honestly think that they are fucked. There’s just no way to include everybody in this, you’re gonna lose. You have to decide who you’re for. I think it will be interesting to see people start to try to practice a more radical pluralism that doesn’t redline out leftists. But I think that it may prove impossible, at least at this particular juncture in human history. Maybe at all of them.

MC: I think that loops us back nicely to the No Fear rally, because they were trying to be pluralist about this, and it just totally fell apart. The leftists didn’t want to get involved because of the right wing people there. But the right wing couldn’t even stand to be around the liberal centrists or to get in line with their messaging. And it just collapsed. And the Biden administration representative came on stage, and then the Trump-ists booed her. I think that’s a potent example of why it’s very hard to do that kind of work.

AA: Well, listen, I think we absolutely have to talk about Ben & Jerry’s. If you’ve been living under a Jewish rock, you may not know that Ben & Jerry’s decided not to sell ice cream in settlements. And the Israeli President Isaac Herzog called this “the new terrorism,” and Yair Lapid asked the United States to enforce its anti-BDS laws against both Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever which, in true American multinational corporation fashion, is like 60,000 brands. And people are really freaking out. In my favorite example, an Australian kosher certifier said that they’re going to remove their kosher certification, that Ben & Jerry’s is no longer kosher. So yeah, what’s up with that? What do you guys think?

MC: I just think to connect, really quickly, to something that Josh said before that I’ve been thinking about on this, is this idea that a lot of people are saying, in response to the JEI survey, we just need to improve Israel education. Israel education among Jews could not get any further right than it already is. It’s already very pro-Israel. They might be saying that, who knows? I don’t know what David Harris at the AGC thinks, but it seems like part of what they’re saying is we need to do a better job of giving kids a little bit of a morsel about the occupation and be honest about that and then they won’t freak out and go anti-Zionist. They’re like, “We need to try this strategy so that we teach them, in this still very Zionist way, that there’s an occupation,” but they won’t call it apartheid. My take from this Ben & Jerry’s thing, they can’t do it. That doesn’t work for the strategy to even be like, “Okay, this is just a boycott of the settlements.” The Zionist machine cannot handle that kind of contradiction or that kind of acknowledgment. Even the centrists in Israel are freaking out and saying that this is terrorism, what Ben & Jerry’s is doing, this is an attack on all of Israel, this is an attack on all of the Jewish people. The Zionist consensus is not able to hold this actual legitimate anti-occupation rhetoric in any sort of way. They have to go into freakout mode. I don’t think it’s only an emotional response, I think there’s strategic reasons for that as well. But it just sort of shows what really happens when push comes to shove, and they have to try to defend the settlements, they’re going to defend the settlements.

AB: We were talking at our meeting this morning about how BDS organizers have often been very wary of boycotts that are applied to only the occupied territories, because of the way that they legitimize the distinction between the territories inside greenline Israel in a way that doesn’t really have any political weight to it. But I was so struck by this, because something that many liberal Zionists will say, who oppose BDS, they’ve absorbed some of that same logic and they will say “I would support boycotting companies that do business in the territories, but that’s different.” And what has happened in this instance is there has been such an outcry within the American Zionist world writ large with tweets going around of parodies of Ben & Jerry’s flavors, like “Antise-mint,” that feels very unhinged, because obviously, this is a company that’s famously run by Jews. It is sort of a Jewish brand and I think that that is maybe why there is such panic about it. But it occurred to me, just through watching this unfold, that I wonder if there’s actually some gray area in a lot of people’s minds about what it means to do business in the territories, whether that means lproducing things there or selling things there. Because SodaStream famously is produced in the territories and there has been a large scale BDS campaign against SodaStream for that reason.

JL: They moved SodaStream back in the green line.

AB: Sorry, but there was initially, right? The boycott still stands, but—correct me if I’m wrong—but I thought that it was a relatively rare nternational brand where production was actually based in the territories at some point. And that seems to be different from companies selling in the occupied territories, which I would imagine actually flies under the radar much more easily. And I would imagine that there are a lot of liberal Zionists who would say “Sure, I would support boycott of companies that do business there,” but haven’t actually thought about the fact that also means selling and not just producing. And so in that sense, I wonder if Ben & Jerry’s actually scored a big political win by l effectively doing something that maybe many people would have thought they would have been doing to begin with, which is not selling to settlers. And I wonder if that will become a trend. And that seems like a sentiment that people like Mohammed El-Kurd are saying on social media right now.

JL: Well, it kind of happened by accident. There’s this amazing interview—I don’t know if it’s translated into English—that the Ha’aretz journalist Nir Gontarz did with the guy who runs the factory of Ben & Jerry’s in Israel, which is in a place called Be’er Tuvia and it’s in the south of Israel, I believe. And Nir Gontarz calls this guy and he’s like, “I heard that Ben & Jerry’s asked you not to sell your ice cream in the West Bank.” And he’s like, “That’s true. And I told them that I wouldn’t do it and so they’re not renewing my contract.” So there’s not going to be Ben & Jerry’s, right? And the interview is really interesting because the Ha’aretz journalist is pushing this guy who runs the factory. He’s like, “But you know that the settlements aren’t in Israel and your contract with Ben & Jerry’s Unilever is only Israel.” So he’s like, “No, but I don’t see a difference and I’m gonna sell wherever Israelis are,” and then Nir Gontarz asks him, “But you wouldn’t sell your ice cream to Israelis in New York or Berlin? Because they’re not in Israel.” And he’s like, “I’m not a jurist, but I’m going to sell them. Unilever’s not going to tell me that I can’t sell my ice cream to Israelis in West Bank settlements.” And so he is going to not get his contract renewed with Ben & Jerry’s international. That’s the story there. And I think if that’s been lost in the news cycle, it’s because everyone’s trying to spin this in their own way. The hardcore BDS activists want this as a BDS win, because it’s going to lead to Israel itself having an issue. And the Zionist advocates are freaking out because they also want to blur the distinction over the green line. And I think the way that Israeli officials are talking about this, whether it’s Gilad Erdan, who’s the ambassador to the UN, or Yair Lapid, the foreign minister, not drawing a distinction and saying this is boycotting Israel, that’s a reflection of the fact that the green line is not a lived reality in Israeli politics. And that is something that American Jews are still coming to terms with. That’s what you see in the polling, about 60% of American Jews still say they support a two state solution. That’s where you do have a group of people who are very unhinged from reality, because the green line is not a thing for most Israelis. But the other thing I wanted to say about Ben & Jerry’s is you could also see Ben & Jerry’s as telling the whole story of American Judaism in two people’s stories. They’re these Ashkenazi guys who are boomers, so maybe their parents or grandparents come from the old country. They assimilate, they get into the counterculture and go to sell their Funky Monkey in Vermont.

AA: I think it’s Chunky Monkey.

JL: I don’t know, I don’t eat ice cream really.

AA: You don’t eat ice cream, you don’t watch movies.

JL: I’m lactose intolerant. And then they become new leftists and have this social justice bent on their food company, and it ends with them in like the last third of their life like becoming anti-Israel advocates. And the reason why I think that’s important is because—and this is just trying to tie the polling thing together—I think that these polls, and also the way the establishment organizations talk about American Jews, understates the degree of assimilation and erosion of Jewish distinctiveness in America. This process is actually much farther along than people are willing to acknowledge. And the established organizations have constructed this Potemkin Jewish community where things still matter, but it doesn’t matter. Ben & Jerry’s, as an emblem of Boomer American Jewry, has like a divorced itself functionally from Zionism. And most Americans don’t actually care. And that, I think, is the story.


AA: I mean, to be fair, Ben & Jerry’s is run by a board. I don’t even know where Ben or Jerry are on this. I would be surprised if they were very involved in this kind of decision, although I recognize the symbolism of it being particularly a Jewish company in the American imagination on some level, just because I think it’s emblematic of the week that they just had and the real schism in the Jewish community, and the fact that it’s going to be a lot harder to holistically dismiss all this stuff as antisemitic. First of all, those 60% of of Jews who still support the two state solution, that’s roughly the amount of people who said that they support conditioning aid, and making sure that none of it goes to the settlements. That’s a pretty consistent position. And in fact, I don’t think I’ve seen that many people who are in that camp speaking out against this Ben & Jerry’s thing on the whole. I think that actually those people have been extremely consistent. Your really hardcore two-staters who are the liberal moms and dads probably don’t care if they sell to the settlements, because they see those people, right or wrongly—a lot of them are not just religious fanatics, they’re just economic settlers—but they don’t relate to those people in the territories. I think the place where it gets interesting is the blurring in other places. We’ve talked about the Palestinian response generally being excited about the boycott that they would in the past be like “this sucks.” And I wonder if that’s just a result of BDS not having the the number of wins, or this providing an opening for more BDS wins, when so far there really haven’t been that many of this sort. And also the blurring on the edges of American politics, like someone like Bill de Blasio being like, “I’m boycotting Ben & Jerry’s,” even though that’s a pro-settlement position. Why would Bill de Blasio, as a Democratic politician who’s not even running for anything, need to take that position? So things are getting weird now with the question of like, is it Israel? Or is it not Israel? And I think we all agree that it is functionally Israel. And so that does make this a weird situation.

MC: I think, also not to get too in the weeds, but the specificity of Ben & Jerry’s matters here. It’s not really Ben and Jerry themselves anymore, as Arielle was saying, but I think somebody apparently tried to get them involved in it recently. And I think they’ve said, in recent years, to JVP activists that they wanted Ben & Jerry’s out of selling in the territories, but they don’t have control. But even if Ben and Jerry themselves are out, the independent board that Ben & Jerry’s has now is a very activisty board, and part of the reason that people were calling on Ben & Jerry’s so intensely is that Ben & Jerry’s has really positioned itself as the social action company that releases statements about systemic racism in the United States, and has a Bernie flavor, and all of that stuff. And so they were really coming under fire for hypocrisy around the role in Israel/Palestine, and their Twitter account just went dark for two months when people started hounding them during the violence going on in Gaza. They just went dark. And then the first time they reappeared was with this statement. But then they had this dispute with Unilever, where Unilever insisted on putting in this line that they were going to continue to sell in Israel. And Ben & Jerry’s independent board didn’t even want to say that, they actually want to reconsider whether they’re going to sell in Israel proper at all. But you can see in Unilever’s statement about the whole thing on their website. They’re very freaked out about it. And they’re like, “this was Ben & Jerry’s independent board.” And so there’s all this intra-corporate conflict based on the fact that this was an acquisition of a smaller company that has this very activist reputation. I think this is, in a lot of ways, a major symbolic victory for BDS. But they’re also getting a lot of backlash. And if this was just Unilever, and not Ben & Jerry’s with its independent board and social action brand, I don’t know if they would have been convinced. I think that they’re part of the reason that it took so long for Ben & Jerry’s to do this in the first place. And I think a really giant company like that is going to be a lot less eager to piss off the Israeli government. Obviously there is this thing now where companies are trying really hard to look woke, because that’s more popular. So if there is enough image damage from these kinds of boycotts, that can matter. But it’s interesting to think about the way that Ben & Jerry’s is unique, and this interaction with Unilever and whether or not that can be replicated in larger companies. Maybe it doesn’t matter, because if people see the brand in the popular minds, it doesn’t matter as much. But I think that in terms of how to influence these larger companies. It’s relevant.

MC: Well, just to wrap up, I’ll just end with a question, which is, and Mari just answered for herself, but what do we see as the results of this? Are there any prognostications about what this potentially means? Obviously no one is going to die without Ben & Jerry’s in the West Bank, and we don’t have enough information to know how this is going to affect Ben & Jerry’s his bottom line in terms of whether it hurts or helps the company to an extent that actually changes things. But what do we think in terms of the symbolic ground and the economic if anyone has prognostication there?

MC: I don’t think it means it’s just a total wash or that it doesn’t matter, because other companies like Unilever aren’t necessarily going to do the same thing. I think it is a pretty major energizing victory for the BDS movement. And because Ben & Jerry’s is such like a popular company in the US, it’s gonna get a lot of people paying attention to this, and that might reanimate fights around around BDS here. Does that translate to a material impact on Israeli policy? That’s something that people are really debating in the movement now. And also, I think that the newsletter interview I did with Lara Friedman has a lot of interesting thoughts about when the Israeli right creates this backlash, do they make this so hard for any other companies to want to do it? And what will this mean for BDS laws in the United States? So I recommend checking that out. But it’s a little bit more complicated than just saying no other companies will do this. But it’s all worth thinking about.

JL: I was talking with Edo Konrad, who’s the editor of 972, about this recently, and he said that he thought it was interesting that Ben & Jerry’s decided to do this and studied the Airbnb case in advance. And after seeing what Airbnb had gone through, decided to do it anyway. And I think that the optimistic read of this is that the more companies that do it, the more they realize they can weather the storm and the more that will do it. If anything, in some perverse behavioral psychology way, having scandals about your company is good for business because now everyone’s talking about Ben & Jerry’s and they’re gonna see a sales bump. And then that’ll be reported in their quarterly reports and they’ll be like “You know what, actually occasionally doing a social justice thing that causes a controversy is good.” All these people are, at least on my social media, posting pictures of themselves eating Ben & Jerry’s.

MC: Mari said she couldn’t get it in Brooklyn.

MC: The Walgreens right next to me is really bad at ever restocking anything, I don’t want to make major political prognostications from that, but I did have to go to three stores until I found Ben & Jerry’s at a bodega. So take from that what you will.

JL: Look, maybe Mehdi Hassan is tweeting about eating Ben & Jerry’s. They got a lot of free advertising. And I think whoever makes decisions that Ben & Jerry’s is gonna have to weigh whether Texas trying to cut out its investments in Unilever is worth the whatever. Also in the near term, it’s going to depend on whether BDS activists have the follow through to take these suits, when Texas does this, to whatever kind of legal recourse is possible, because that’s really what did it for the anti apartheid movement with South Africa, was that you had all of these fights happening at the state level, and activists were sharing experiences. And there were people who were just engaged for a long time in these divestment, boycott practices. I don’t know if BDS in America has the same organizational infrastructure that the anti-apartheid movement had in the 80s. I don’t think it’s there yet. And so it’s also possible that this ends up being a media firestorm and then goes away for a while, and doesn’t really make an impact. But I think the other obstacle that people are still reckoning with when it comes to BDS is that the Israeli economy is insulated from any real impact so far on this because doesn’t depend on Ben & Jerry’s single factory making ice cream in Be’er Tuvia. And so it’s really good PR, it’s a really good public like consciousness changing tactic from the movement side. But we’re nowhere near Israel facing any threat to its bottom line. And that makes it a lot harder to know where this goes. I definitely am pessimistic about the ability to make Israel feel enough pressure economically to change its policies. I don’t really know what would do that at this point.

AA: One thing I am hopeful about is, if this is the first real test of the state level anti-BDS laws, which are blatantly unconstitutional, that maybe they will fall in court. And also, maybe the people who instituted them will recognize what it actually looks like to enforce them, which would be probably more trouble than any of them actually care to inflict on corporations. Maybe I’m wrong about this, I just think it’s it’s an opportunity to test these laws that hasn’t really come up yet, except for in very small, isolated cases, as far as I know. And I actually wonder about the appetite of the American Judiciary and also the states themselves for actually having to enforce something like this if it actually came to it. So I think that’ll be interesting. And I would actually suspect that it will be defeated. Maybe that’s too optimistic. Well, that is that. Thank you for joining us, please like or review this podcast positively, not negatively. And I hope that you tell your friends, so that we can keep doing this. You know what I’m doing? I’m reciting what the yoga teacher on the YouTube videos that I watch says at the end of her videos. Yes, Subscribe and Like, review, do all those things. Thank you for joining us. This is On The Nose with Jewish Currents. Bye-Bye.


End Credits: Can’t get enough Jewish Currents? Keep in touch with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. And visit JewishCurrents.org to subscribe and see our latest. A very special thanks to Nathan Salzberg for providing us with music from his album “Landwerk No. 2” and to Santiago Helou Quintero for producing this segment. Thanks for listening. That’s all from us.

Nov 23 2022
“The Jews” (53:00)
Ari Brostoff, Rebecca Pierce, Jasmine Sanders, and Sam Adler-Bell discuss Dave Chapelle's controversial Saturday Night Live monologue.
Nov 8 2022
Victory for Netanyahu’s Far-Right Alliance (26:34)
Alex Kane speaks with Peter Beinart, Joshua Leifer, and Elisheva Goldberg about Netanyahu’s likely return to power and the rise of the far-right Religious Zionism coalition.
Oct 20 2022
Ye (35:43)
Rebecca Pierce, Adam Serwer, and Arielle Angel discuss Kanye West’s recent antisemitic comments.
Oct 13 2022
Gaza Under Blockade (55:23)
Alex Kane speaks with Kholoud Balata and Miriam Marmur about Israel’s blockade and bombardment of Gaza.
Sep 29 2022
Yeshiva Education (38:15)
After a recent New York Times investigation into Hasidic yeshivas, Joshua Leifer speaks with Naftuli Moster and Frieda Vizel about divergent strategies for change in the Hasidic world and what’s at stake in the fight over secular education.
Sep 15 2022
Mom Save America (33:37)
Arielle Angel interviews her mother, Jeri Cohen, about getting back into the reproductive justice struggle at 69.
Aug 25 2022
Documenting the Struggle (41:51)
Joshua Leifer speaks with Oren Ziv, co-founder of the photojournalist collective Activestills, about chronicling the violence of apartheid.
Aug 11 2022
The Scream Clarifies an Elsewhere (01:03:07)
To celebrate the release of Culture Editor Claire Schwartz’s debut poetry collection, Civil Service, she discusses the social meanings of poetry with Managing Editor Nathan Goldman and Graywolf Press editor Chantz Erolin.
Jul 28 2022
The Trouble with Germany, Part 1 (01:06:59)
Arielle Angel speaks with Emily Dische-Becker and Michael Sappir about the bizarre and worrisome ways that “memory culture” plays out in Germany among Jews, Palestinians, and Germans, as well as the recent attacks on Dische-Becker in the German press.
Jul 14 2022
¡Inquilinos Unidos, Jamás Serán Vencidos! (51:29)
Recording from a convention of the Autonomous Tenants Union Network, Ari Brostoff speaks with organizers Kenia Alcocer, Danya Martinez-Spider, and Claire Spiehler about the tenant movement across the country.
Jun 30 2022
The Mapping Project (53:25)
Jewish Currents staff discuss the controversy that arose after Boston activists published a map of Massachusetts institutions they deemed complicit in Zionism and US imperialism.
Jun 16 2022
The Age of No Revolutions (49:08)
David Klion speaks with history podcaster Mike Duncan about why the left’s discontent with the status quo hasn’t led to a sustained uprising.
May 26 2022
The Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh (51:36)
Dylan Saba, Dana El Kurd, and Fadi Quran discuss Israeli obfuscation and strategies of resistance in the wake of a journalist’s murder
May 5 2022
Campus Wars (54:10)
Jewish Currents staff discuss the latest flashpoints in campus conflict over Israel/Palestine
Apr 20 2022
A Surge of Violence in Israel/Palestine (36:27)
Peter Beinart, Dana El Kurd, and Daniel Seidemann discuss the recent increase in fatal attacks in Israel/Palestine.
Apr 1 2022
Volodymyr Zelensky and Post-Soviet Jewishness (56:15)
David Klion, Julia Alekseyeva, Linda Kinstler, and Helen Betya Rubinstein discuss the meaning of the Ukrainian president’s background.
Mar 17 2022
The Assault on Trans and Reproductive Rights (58:16)
Senior Editor Ari M. Brostoff, scholar Jules Gill-Peterson, journalist Meaghan Winter, and reproductive justice advocate Laurie Bertram Roberts discuss the recent wave of executive and legislative attacks on trans people and abortion rights.
Mar 3 2022
I Want to Believe (54:54)
Upon the release of Senior Editor Ari M. Brostoff’s debut essay collection, Missing Time, they discuss the political potential of The X-Files with Editor-in-Chief Arielle Angel and Managing Editor Nathan Goldman.
Feb 17 2022
The Black–Jewish Relations Industrial Complex (59:54)
In light of recent flashpoints in so-called Black–Jewish relations, Contributing Writer Rebecca Pierce joins artists and activists Anthony Russell, Reuben Telushkin, and Shoshana Brown in discussing the continued prevalence of anti-Black racism in the American Jewish community and the ongoing exclusion of Black Jews.
Feb 3 2022
Whose West Side Story? (01:02:32)
Editor-in-chief Arielle Angel spoke with scholars Frances Negrón-Muntaner, Brian E. Herrera, and Daniel Pollack-Pelzner about the parallel resonances of West Side Story in Jewish and Latinx communities, and the tensions that emerge over questions of power and control.
Jan 20 2022
After Colleyville (43:36)
Jewish Currents staff discuss their immediate reactions to the recent hostage crisis at a Texas synagogue.
Dec 16 2021
Jamaal Bowman and DSA (43:38)
Jewish Currents staff discuss the debate within the Democratic Socialists of America about Congressman Jamaal Bowman's divergence from the organization on Israel/Palestine.
Dec 2 2021
What Does the Record Show? (57:28)
Culture Editor Ari M. Brostoff and writers Vicky Osterweil and Kay Gabriel discuss Sarah Schulman's Let the Record Show, the dangers of nostalgia, and the challenges of reckoning with our political forebears.
Nov 18 2021
Israel's Attack on Palestinian Civil Society (23:55)
Senior Reporter Alex Kane interviews Palestinian American analyst Yousef Munayyer and Israeli human rights advocate Sarit Michaeli on Israel's October decision to declare six Palestinian human rights organizations “terrorist” groups.