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Group Wants Park Slope Food Coop to Consider Boycott of Israeli Products

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Park Slope Food Coop Park Slope Food Coop (Luna Lin/WNYC)

3/27/12 Update: Park Slope Food Coop members will vote on whether to approve or reject a member-initiated proposal to hold a referendum about joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at its general meeting on Tuesday, March 27 at Brooklyn Tech High School, according to the coop.

A group aligned with the B.D.S. movement wants Brooklyn's Park Slope Food Coop to consider a move toward a boycott of Israeli products.

Opposing opinions on issues around Israel and Palestine have long been exchanged in the coop's in-store newspaper, the Linewaiters' Gazette. But on July 26, the group Park Slope Food Coop Members for Israeli Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions proposed that the coop's board vote on whether or not to hold a referendum to poll the coop's 15,000 plus members on the issue.

"I think that's a peaceful way to get the message across," said member Brenda Iijima. "It's controversial and I understand everyone's sensitivity. But I think what's happening in Palestine is just unconscionable and sad. We are directly responsible for it in the United States."

Member Jeffrey Goodman disagreed.

"I'm against boycotting," he said. "I feel Palestinians should have their country. But at the same time, boycotting Israeli food is not the answer."

A blog for those opposing the B.D.S. endorsement has sprung up called Stop BDS at the Park Slope Coop. Rabbi Andy Bachman of Park Slope's Congregation Beth Elohim also posted a response to the referendum discussion on his blog.

Member Miwa Yokoyama said that the coop shouldn't get involved.

"It is a hot divisive issue," Yokoyama said. "I just feel it's not in the mission of the co-op though to really be taking political stands on these types of issues. I, myself, might have my own opinion, but I don't think it should really affect the coop."

Other members said they needed more information about the B.D.S. before considering a referendum.

"My first reaction is that I probably would support it," said member Stephen Twilley. "But I would like to first hear intelligent people debate the pros and cons of such a move because maybe it would or maybe it wouldn't be the best way to protest the government's policies."

At press time, there was no item on the referendum on the coop's next Aug. 29 general meeting agenda. But Park Slope Food Coop Members for Israeli Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions said it would submit a proposal to the agenda committee asking it to consider a vote on the referendum.

The most popular Israeli product that the Park Slope Food Coop stocks is an electronic device for making seltzer water called the Soda Stream Seltzer Maker, according to the coop's general coordinator Ann Herpel. Other items from Israel that the coop stocks are couscous, paprika, vegan marshmallows and Masada dead sea bath salts. The coop does not stock Israeli produce.

The Park Slope Food Coop isn't the only food coop to consider a B.D.S. endorsement. The Olympia Food Co-op's board voted to institute a B.D.S. boycott last year. But the membership of the People's Food Co-op in Ann Arbor, Michigan voted down a motion to support the B.D.S. movement in 2007 by a ratio of 3 to 1, as did the Food Co-Op Port Townsend in Washington because its rules don't permit the coop to boycott products from an entire country.

Doug Walter, who has been the membership director at the Davis Food Co-op in California for 22 years, said his coop's board voted down the endorsement because only 15 percent of its members supported the move.

"A grocery store may not be the best way to affect international relations," he said.

Walter added that although the Park Slope Food Coop is larger and more member-driven than most other coops in the U.S., he would be watching whether or not it would vote to hold a referendum.

"It's going to be tremendously interesting to see what happens," he said.

The Park Slope Food Coop was founded in 1973 by young men and women supportive of social movements of the late '60s and early '70s who wanted to make healthy, affordable food available to everyone.

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Comments [26]

Herb from NYC

Great idea!! Start with boycotting Computers, cell phones, countless medical & technical advances etc. Then with the $ you save you can by Moslem products, like suicide belts, camel dung and..... I think that is it.

Mar. 27 2012 03:53 PM
john from office

This is why progressives get nothing done. Too much infighting, too many issues.

Mar. 27 2012 02:02 PM
Shimon Felix

Do the folks in Park Slope boycott Chinese goods, in protest of their ongoing rape of Tibet? Do they boycott British goods, in protest of their ongoing occupation of Northern Ireland and the Falklands? Do they boycott American goods, in protest of the over 100,000 Iraqi civilians murdered for cheap gas? Do they boycott French goods, for their ongoing imperialist actions in the Ivory Coast and elsewhere in Africa? Or will it just be Israel, for trying to live peacefully in its ancestral homeland, defending the rights of the indigenous people (that would be the Jews, who've lived there for over 3,000 years) against racist, violent, Islamic imperialism, which targets innocent men, women, and children? And I thought Brooklyn was a hip place to live.

Aug. 12 2011 01:02 AM
Mike Goldsman from NYC

Let's put this into perspective - has anyone fully considered the deleterious effect banning the seltzer dispenser may have on clowns who live in the area? How are they supposed to punctuate their slapstick vaudevillian routines? With a spray bottle? It just wouldn't have the same comedic effect and may ruin many a Park Slope child's birthday party. Every time you ban an Israeli seltzer dispenser, a clown cries.

Aug. 11 2011 01:34 AM
Alan Mindel from Brooklyn

Who would want to boycott the Soda Stream Seltzer maker? This device saves untold numbers of wasted plastic bottles not to mention the the petroleum used to transport bottles of water. This would amount to cutting off your seltzer maker to spite your face. Are you ready to give up your cellphone since the technology comes from Israel. How about the break through medical research done in Israel would you boycott that if you were ill?

Aug. 10 2011 08:52 PM
Bocheball from NYC

If you feel strongly about the Israeli Arab situation, then don't buy Israeli products!
But don't dare tell me whose products I can and can't buy. These decisions are personal, not collective.

Aug. 10 2011 07:14 PM
nycer from New York, NY

I don't belong to the co-op. But it seems to me if certain members don't want to buy Israeli products, they don't have to. However, they don't need to impose their views on other co-op members by banning Israeli goods from the co-op altogether. The whole thing sounds anti-semitic to me.

Aug. 10 2011 05:26 PM
Jon from Boston

Someone asked why there is talk about a boycott of Israel and not a boycott of the hundreds of much worse human-rights abusers on the planet (which includes each and every other nation in the Middle East, including the statelet of Gaza).

The answer to that question is simple: while there are no doubt co-op members who feel strongly about these other human rights issues, they also understand that making the co-op a war zone over these issues would damage an institution they belong to and they are not willing to make that sacrifice just to serve their own selfish interests. The anti-Israel crowd does not seem to be face similar self restraint.

No doubt somewhere in the co-op there exists a member (probably a set of members) who feel with no less passion than the Israel boycotters that Gaza is a proto-fascist theocracy (and, by extension, that it's defenders are apologists for fascism). Now I would disagree with such people the same way I disagree with the "Israel = Apartheid" propaganda crowd (and for the same reason - that both exploit people's nature disdain for bigotry and fascism).

However, I would say that both groups are entitled to their opinion (regardless of how wrong those opinions may be). They are not, however, entitled to the co-op as their own personal plaything.

Aug. 10 2011 04:43 PM
its more complex than that from brooklyn

Re. Deborah from NYC :

"I take pride in saying that Gaza, specifically, and Palestine in general, is one of the few places in the world where women and men enjoy equality in rights, because the two are deprived from these laws by the Israeli occupation. Israel implements excellent standards of affirmative action in making sure that both men and women are equally deprived from their most basic human rights..." -- Yasmeen El Khoudary

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/07/20117269629265959.html

Aug. 10 2011 03:30 PM
Joel from NYC

Is the coop considering boycotting products from China, where the government suppresses tens of millions of people (ask Ai Weiwei and the Tibetan people)? Or how about Syrian products (have you noticed what's going on there)? Libya, Iran, etc. Unfortunately, one can point to atrocities around the globe. The coop members who are advocating for the Israeli boycott need to ask themselves why Israel is at the top of their list. How many products from China did they buy today? How many products did they buy today with some form of petroleum with its origin in some oppressive country. This type of stuff (the advocacy for boycotting of Israel) is so transparent, but it needs to be fought.

Aug. 10 2011 02:03 PM
flatbusher

Actually, the people who brought the discussion about having a referendum on whether the Coop should be part of the BDS movement want - well, what I just said: we want a membership-wide vote on the question of whether we should observe the international boycott of Israel while it continues to violate international law. Who wants to shut down conversation entirely? Some members who are pro-Israel (one might call *them* "a small group of single-issue partisans," but I don't actually know them personally so I don't want to denigrate them like that) . The conversation at the Coop has begun, and we want it to be resolved in the most democratic way possible - a vote for every member. The membership decides on process at the Park Slope Food Coop, with generally pro-forma approval by our board.

Aug. 10 2011 02:00 PM
bev from bronx

I am totally against this boycott. I think Israel is very aware of the "world opinion", and painfully aware of how many of those opinions are not in their favor. The coop, as far as I knew, represents healthy food promotion, supporting community partnership and farmers and better farming practices... not making statements on foreign politics.

Aug. 10 2011 01:21 PM
Tara from NYC

ABSOLUTELY MORONIC!

Aug. 10 2011 01:08 PM
Jon from Boston

Just as an FYI - I don't believe the managers of the co-op are at all interested in such a boycott (especially given the mayhem and divisiveness the "backroom boycott" caused at places like Olympia). Like most boycott motions within civic orgnaizations, this is being pushed by a small group of single-issue partisans who are exploiting the open minded nature of the organization (in this case the co-op) for their own ends (other members and everyone else be damned).

Aug. 10 2011 12:45 PM
Richard from Brooklyn

One may not be a member, but there are many who might be prospective members. I have many friends who are members of the Park Slope Food Co-op. You won't find me joining if Israel is singled out. There are other businesses in Park Slope I have not frequented for years since they voiced support for the Intifada.

That's where I'm going with this ... go where you may.

Aug. 10 2011 12:21 PM
Deborah from NYC

I have a much better idea, let's boycott every single thing from the Middle East until women are no longer persecuted and murdered regularly in the Muslim world. How about that? This is such unbelievable HYPOCRISY. Treat women however you want but if men were involved we'd go to war for them. (NOT that I'm advocating war; I'm not.) And when did Palestine become a Liberal cause? When Republicans aligned themselves with Isreal? I will tell that I have not had a single conversation yet with someone advocating strongly for Palestine, who was able to accurately recount to me the history of the conflict, which makes sense because if they understood any portion of it beyond the last five years, Isreal's stance would be quite clear. And just to be clear, the first Palestinians were, in fact, Isrealites. Would that anyone in this country knew the history of anything...(And I'm not even Jewish...!)

Aug. 10 2011 11:17 AM
Mike Goldsman from NYC

If you're boycotting countries because of their perceived human rights violations, how can it be possible that China/Saudi Arabia wouldn't be ahead of Israel on the list?

Aug. 10 2011 10:55 AM
anonyme

How about just boycotting as an individual if it's your belief that this will have an impact or create movement in the unchanging situation? Why does a whole org. have to get involved? Individuals can let the Israeli govt know they are boycotting... I, too am impatient to see Israel figure out how to live with its neighbors and I know it is not simple. I also believe in Israel's right to thrive - where else are you going to get melons like Israeli melons? And they did this with a desert! Imagine if the warring stopped!

Aug. 10 2011 10:50 AM
Raul Rothblatt from Prospect Heights

As a coop member, I have strong issues on this. But if anyone doesn't like the way the coop is run, don't join. Only members who can shop there, so if you're not a member, you can't boycott us because you can't shop anyway.

There are real problems in the world right now- let's focus on those, not on these hot button issues. I'm a member and big supporter of WNYC, but this subject is not worth WNYC's coverage.

Aug. 10 2011 10:39 AM
KAI DE GRAAF

I SEE. SO BUSINESS AS USUAL IS OK. UNTIL OF COURSE THE WHOLE THING GOES ENTIRELY AND COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL.

I FOR ONE DON'T WANT BUSINESS AS USUAL. I WANT DRASTIC CHANGE THAT MAYBE NOT EVERYONE CAN TOLERATE BUT THE MAJORITY WILL UPHOLD.

THE WHOLE ISSUE IS DE-STABILIZING NOT ONLY FOR THE MIDDLE EAST BUT ALSO FOR THE WORLD. DO YOU REALLY WANT THINGS TO GO ON AS THEY HAVE THROUGH THE PAST FIFTY YEARS ?

DO YOU REALLY WANT THAT ?

IT'S AN IRRESPONSIBLE POSITION TO TAKE.

Aug. 10 2011 10:14 AM

kai de graaf -- the problem from israel's and fairness's position is that the "world opinion" as you put it does not call for a "two state solution," but rather a one state solution, with israel going to the arabs. according to surveys this is fact. if the brooklyn food coop doesn't like israel that's its business of course but it doesn't exactly bolster its nascent geopolitical credibility in areas beyond foodstuffs. makes me curious about the origination of this action and what other boycotts this coop has asserted.

Aug. 10 2011 08:58 AM
Jon from Boston

Just an FYI - The only food co-op to enact a boycott (Olympia) did so behind the backs of its members and only by bending (probably breaking) their own bylaws. In every instance where boycott was debated in the light of day (including not just Port Townsend and Ann Arbor, but also Davis and Sacramento, CA) anti-Israel boycotts have been rejected out of hand.

As ever, such BDS action seems to derive primarily from small numbers of partisans trying to drag a civic organization (in this case, a food coop) under their propaganda umbrella, regardless of the pain and turmoil such a move might cause the community as a whole

Aug. 10 2011 08:50 AM
KAI DE GRAAF from NEW YORK CITY

YES. THE CO-OP SHOULD VOTE TO BOYCOTT ISRAELI PRODUCTS AS SHOULD OTHER CO-OP'S, STORES, WHOLESALERS AND JUST AS SHOULD THE U.S.A.

UNTIL THE STATE OF ISRAEL FEELS WORLD OPINION VIS-A-VIS A MASS BOYCOTT OF THEIR EXPORTS, THEY WILL NEVER HONESTLY AND EARNESTLY GO FORWARD ON THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION.

IN THE SHORT RUN, THIS WILL HURT MANY INNOCENTS. IN THE LONG RUN, THIS IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO FOR EVERYONE.

Aug. 10 2011 08:41 AM

donald weston says it very well

Aug. 10 2011 08:40 AM
Big Man from USA

The only way Israel understands the gravity of their actions vis-à-vis its indigenous Palestinian population is by money and profits. Boycotting is working, the Israeli govt is now concerned about its image (just read Israeli newspaper to get a sense the frustration). Boycotting played no small role in the dismantling of Apartheid South Africa. I firmly don't expect anything different in the case of Israel.

Aug. 10 2011 08:27 AM
Donald Weston

More pompous sound and fury from the baby-carriage boreds. Boycott the place if you don't like their practices. Or is that too much of a sacrifice?

Aug. 10 2011 07:57 AM

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