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Power Up: Progressive Pro-Israel groups come out in support of Ben & Jerry's

with Tobi Raji

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The people

A DOUBLE SCOOP 🍨🚨:  A group of progressive, pro-Israel Jewish groups are issuing a letter to U.S. governors today in support of Ben & Jerry's ice cream after the iconic Vermont-based company announced last week it would discontinue sales of its ice cream in “occupied Palestinian Territory.” 

The company, whose founders are both Jewish, will continue to sell their ice cream in Israel. But Israeli government officials have called on U.S. lawmakers to sanction Ben & Jerry's in states with anti-boycott laws and have labeled the ice cream maker as “antisemitic.” 

Signatories of the letter by eight groups including J Street, the New Israel Fund, and Americans for Peace Now condemn “legal action against Ben & Jerry's or its parent company Unilever in response to its decision to no longer sell ice cream in occupied Palestinian territory.” 

  • We are especially dismayed that some have degraded the discussion around the issue by calling the move antisemitic, a dehumanization of the Jewish people, and even an act of terrorism,” according to the letter provided to Power Up. “Such discourse not only clouds the facts, but is extremely polarizing, deeply painful to many Jews and harms the fight against the growing tide of actual, deadly hatred that our community faces worldwide.” 
  • The letter notes a key distinction: “None of our organizations endorse boycotts of Israel or support the global BDS movement — and many of us actively advocate against them. At the same time, like Ben & Jerry’s, we make a clear distinction between the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories it militarily occupies. This critical differentiation between the State of Israel and the settlements established in occupied territory in violation of international law is rightly recognized and maintained in various ways by official US policy and the constitutionally-protected actions of private individuals and organizations.” 

The letter further argues that a majority of Jewish Americans support the approach of making a distinction between Israel and settlements established in occupied territory: 

  • “For example, a recent poll of Jewish voters in the United States found that a majority support both continued US military aid to Israel and measures to ensure that such assistance is not used in connection with expanding settlements. 1 We also note that the McDonald’s franchisee in Israel has declined for many years to open a restaurant in the settlements.”

Last week, right wing American Jewish Organizations sent a letter to governors whose states have passed laws targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, asking that they determine “whether Unilever, should be included on the list of 'Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel,' in which state funds cannot be invested.”

  • “If the state invests in Unilever we ask that you take immediate action to divest. Additionally, we ask you to determine whether the state has any contracts with Unilever and its subsidiaries that may be in violation of the state anti-BDS law.”

GOP lawmakers quickly adopted the war on ice cream, calling to cancel Ben & Jerry's in their state after the announcement. 

  • “On Thursday, the Texas comptroller directed his staff to investigate whether Ben & Jerry's and Unilever should be placed on a list of banned businesses. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also called for the businesses to be added to the state's ‘Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List,’” USA Today's Hannan Adely reports. 
  • “New Jersey’s law, adopted five years ago, requires that state pension funds divest from pro-boycott businesses… The law puts New Jersey in a bind. Lawmakers voted for it with near-unanimous support in 2016, but now the consequences could be felt by one of the state’s big employers. Unilever plc, the British conglomerate that owns Ben & Jerry's, runs its U.S. operations out of a 321,000-square-foot campus in Englewood Cliffs where it employs 1,600 people.” 
  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) called for a ban on the sale of Ben & Jerry's in Oklahoma before walking back his remarks: “If grocery stores want to sell Ben & Jerry's, if people want to have private, standalone Ben & Jerry's and be able to go to that, that's totally up to you,” Lankford said. “Our state law says, though, our state won't participate in our contracting as a state with any state-run facility with any company that actually has a BDS movement.”

The investigations

HAPPENING TOMORROW: “The House select committee envisioned to be the ultimate arbiter of what led President Donald Trump’s supporters to invade the U.S. Capitol in January is scheduled to begin its work under a cloud of controversy that threatens to compromise the investigation from the outset,” our Post colleague Karoun Demirjian reports

  • “Republican leaders, who declared a boycott after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week rejected two of their picks for the panel, have signaled to the GOP’s rank and file that there could be consequences for anyone who participates. As of Sunday, two have agreed to do so anyway, and Pelosi has hinted that there could be others.”
  • Who? “Pelosi selected [Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.)] to serve on the panel, naming Kinzinger to its ranks Sunday afternoon.”

“With Kinzinger joining his friend Cheney on the select panel, Democrats will be able to tout the involvement of two traditional conservatives in a bipartisan inquiry,” Politico’s Luke Broadwater, Jesse Naranjo and Olivia Beavers write.

  • “Nonetheless, the findings of the panel will likely be rejected by Trump’s allies, who have blasted the panel as a partisan ploy designed to hurt him and the party ahead of the midterms next year.”

What to expect tomorrow: “Four police officers — two from the Capitol’s protection squad and two from D.C. police — are set to provide the first public testimony before the select committee,” Demirjian writes.  

  • “They are expected to testify about their experiences of both physical and verbal abuse on Jan. 6, as they tried to protect the Capitol.”
  • Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), “who led the prosecution in Trump’s second impeachment trial, said the committee will focus on ‘why we were not prepared for the president to unleash the violence against us and what that means in terms of security.’”
  • “Another question the panel hopes to answer, he said, is ‘what groups and political forces came together to do this, how did they operate and why did they do this, what was the purpose of it.’”

The policies

NEED FOR INFRASTRUCTURE SPEED: “Senators are racing to seal a bipartisan infrastructure deal, as pressure is mounting on all sides to show progress on Biden’s top priority,” AP News’ Hope Yen and Lisa Mascaro report.

  • “Heading into a make-or-break week, key senators and staff spent the weekend trying to reach a final agreement.”
  • “One major roadblock is how much money should go to public transit. But spending on highways, water projects, broadband and others areas remains unresolved, as is whether to take unspent covid-19 relief funds to help pay for the infrastructure.”
  • “The lead Republican negotiator, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, said the two sides were ‘about 90% of the way there’ on an agreement.”
  • “A top Democrat, Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, said he was hopeful a final bill would be ready Monday afternoon — though others were not so sure.”

Meanwhile, “Pelosi and Portman clashed Sunday over the next steps for the bipartisan infrastructure package,” Politico’s Marianne Levine reports.

  • “During separate appearances on ABC News’ ‘This Week,’ Pelosi and Portman offered dueling views as to when the bipartisan package should head to Biden’s desk for a signature.”
  • “Pelosi said Sunday that while House Democrats are ‘rooting for the infrastructure bill to pass,’ she reiterated her pledge that the House will not take it up unless the Senate also passes a separate $3.5 trillion social spending package.”
  • “Portman, however, responded that Pelosi’s remarks are ‘entirely counter to what President Biden has committed to’ and ‘inconsistent with the agreement we have on a bipartisan basis.’”

Bigger picture: “The Senate’s infrastructure bill is a bipartisan island in a sea of partisanship,” our colleague Dan Balz writes

  • “Biden and the Republican and Democratic negotiators may be heavily invested in seeing it through to the finish, but even if they are successful, it is a one-off exercise at a time when the partisan gulf continues to widen.”
  • “An infrastructure package should be the easiest of big initiatives to command support of elected officials in both parties. The need for repair and upgrading of roads and bridges and the like is evident and the political benefits to politicians — money flowing into every state — are indisputable, which is why members of both parties have talked about it for years.”
  • “In today’s climate, however, nothing is easy, and the path ahead for the infrastructure bill remains uncertain.”

Global power

HAPPENING TODAY: “Iraq’s prime minister is [in] Washington to demand that Biden withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq, announcing to Iraqi media that the visit would ‘put an end to the presence of combat forces,’” the New York Times’ Jane Arraf and Eric Schmitt report.

  • “American officials say the United States is likely to oblige the request from Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, setting a deadline to be announced [today] for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces by the end of the year.”
  • “Pentagon and other administration officials say they will achieve this by removing a small but unspecified number of the 2,500 American forces currently stationed in Iraq, and by reclassifying on paper the roles of other forces.”
  • The meeting comes as the United States “accelerate[s] its air campaign against the Taliban in the closing weeks of its military mission in Afghanistan, and is prepared to continue if the militants stay on the offensive,” our colleague Alex Horton reports.




At the White House


Monday, July 26

  • President Biden and Vice President Harris will deliver remarks to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • Biden will participate in a bilateral meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Tuesday, July 27

  • Biden will visit the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, where he will address the Intelligence Community workforce and leadership.
  • The Jan. 6 Select Committee has its first hearing.

Wednesday, July 28

  • Biden will travel to Lower Macungie Township, Pa., where he will deliver remarks on American manufacturing.

In the media

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