Brooklyn food co-op votes down boycott of Israeli-made goods
March 28th, 2012
01:00 PM ET
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Members of a Brooklyn food co-op voted down a controversial motion Tuesday night that would have paved the way for a referendum on the boycott of Israeli-made goods, effectively ending three years of heated internal debate at a community institution usually more concerned with sharing organic recipes than divisive geopolitical issues.

The vote at the 16,000-plus member-owned Park Slope Food Co-Op would have brought the co-op one step closer to participating in the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS.

BDS supporters aim to help Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank by boycotting Israeli products and companies that do business with Israel. Those opposing the boycott defeated its supporters in a 1,005 to 653 vote.

According to Joe Holtz, one of the organization’s founders, only a few Israeli products are sold at the co-op, including vegan marshmallows, pesto tapenade and Israeli couscous. Yet, the mere possibility of a boycott sparked extensive local media coverage and stoked tension amongst co-op members and New Yorkers on both sides of the issue.

“We are saddened to announce that the Park Slope Food Co-op will not be holding a membership-wide referendum on whether to join the international BDS movement,” said a statement on the Web site of a group calling themselves the Park Slope Food Co-Op Members for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. “However, despite our loss in tonight’s vote, we have succeeded in one of our goals. BDS has entered into the consciousness of thousands of co-op members and has even made it into mainstream conversations thanks to the huge amount of media coverage.”

Peter Raskin, a retired teacher and member of the co-op for 35 years, described a sense of unease that pervaded the co-op in the lead-up to the vote due to the presence of BDS supporters demonstrating outside.

He said that while the co-op has long been a place of camaraderie to work and talk food, “this has touched on people’s nerves. I was feeling afraid to tell people I was a co-op member."

Founded in 1973 by a small group of neighborhood residents, the co-op’s rules stipulate that members must work 2 hours and 45 minutes once every four weeks.

But Raskin believes the forces behind the BDS movement at the co-op were largely external and, according to him, anti-Semitic. He said that when his wife went shopping recently someone came in from outside the co-op and put a sign over the matzo indicating that it was made in Israel. “It’s Passover season,” Raskin said. “Anyone buying matzo is Jewish, they know it’s made in Israel,” he said.

Still, some at the co-op simply wanted to keep food and politics separate.

“I think we should just not have an opinion, it’s just too contentious an issue for most people,” Dakkan Abby, a co-op member told CNN affiliate WABC. “It’s too emotional and divides what’s otherwise a pretty united community,” he said.

The co-op’s vote even got some attention from Jon Stewart’s "The Daily Show" Tuesday night, with correspondent Samantha Bee quipping that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Park Slope Food Co-Op is perhaps the “one victim of this war that may be the most tragic of all.”

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Filed under: Business and Farming News • Co-op • News


soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. looking for health authority jobs?

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    March 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Reply
  2. John

    One question for those who are against boycotting Israel: do you support the continual (i.e, as this very minute) appropriation of land on the West Bank and the displacement of the Palestinian population: YES OR NO?

    How well Israel treats its minorities, how many inventions they have come up with, what other countries are also doing, how people may or may not be anti-semitic and 100 other "arguments" designed to draw attention away from the core issue are IRRELEVANT. It is a FACT that Israel has been continually and violently violating international law by building and settling on land outside of its legal 1967 borders, and this boycott is a measure to bring try and bring pressure for Israel, a first world nuclear military power to stop stomping on a third world population.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:47 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      I have a couple of questions for YOU, John... Can you NAME the state the land of the West Bank belongs to? If not WHY do you think that Arabs CAN live in the West Bank while the Jews CAN NOT? Further, if you believe that the Palestinian population is "displaced" then WHO ARE THE FIVE MILLION IMPOSTORS who live in Palestine and call themselves Palestinians? Finally, if these Palestinians DID NOT like the current arrangement would not they try to NEGOTIATE a better deal, in your opinion?

      In return to answering these questions, John, I'll explain to you that the cease fire lines of 1949 NEVER were intended to be state borders, NEVER were borders and NEVER were recognized as borders by any state. Further, Israel has official, legal and internationally recognized borders with Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt... and guess what? ALL of the West Bank and ALL of Gaza are WITHIN these official, legal and internationally recognized borders of Israel.

      March 30, 2012 at 6:09 am | Reply
      • John

        You proved my point exactly "Thinker"– you have no reply to my question. You know you have no answer to it because it totally unjustifiable. Your only hope is to answer a question with a question, change the subject, muddy the waters, introduce reams of irrelevant historical information etc etc. If you had the intellectual honesty to attempt a response to a straightforward and clear question, then a reasonable person would be compelled to respond to the points you raised, but since you didn't (that is can't), it shows you have no interest in actual argumentation but just see this forum as an opportunity to muddle and so dispirit people so they give up. Sorry, this is not going away. The world has had enough of Israel's obscene prevarications. BOYCOTT ISRAEL.

        March 30, 2012 at 9:41 am | Reply
  3. mental

    thats what im talking about WATCHING " THE PRINCE OF TIDES " w BARBRA STRIESTAND.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:25 am | Reply
  4. Thinker23

    Zionism is a Jewish nationalistic movement declaring that the Jewish people (just like other peoples) have a right for self-determination (a sovereign state). Anti-Zionism, therefore, is a claim that the Jewish people (UNLIKE Germans, Poles, Russians, Japanese, Persians or Arabs) DO NOT have a right for self-determination and is, therefore, DISCRIMINATION of Jews because of their ethnicity. Discrimination of people based on race or ethnicity is, by definition, RACISM. Further, the number of "ethnically cleansed" Arabs living in Israel as full fledged citizens increases TWELVE TIMES since 1948 while the number of Jews living in the Arab states DECREASED by 99% during the same time period. Obviously, it's NOT Israel who should be blamed for "ethnic cleansing"...

    March 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  5. Hima B.

    The 3/27/12 vote against having a referendum at the Park Slope Food Coop on boycotting Israel essentially means that 16,000 members are denied the right to participate in a democratic process where they can express their opinion on whether the Coop participates in the boycott. The vote WAS NOT on the issue itself. Nearly 40% of the members who attended were in favor of holding a referendum. The 60% who voted against the referendum not only want to suppress democracy @ the Coop, but they also want us all to be complicit in denying Palestinians their human rights. The vote against the referendum does not mean that Israeli boycott issue is dead at the Coop. FAR FROM IT.

    Zionism = Racism. In time, like South Africa, Israel's ethnic cleansing & apartheid regime will be dismantled so that Palestinians have equal rights. Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) against Israel is part of a economic, non-violent tactic that will bring equality for all to their region & peace for both Palestinians & Israelis.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Can you elaborate on the "rights" Palestinians are bering denied? In response I'll explain to you that Zi0nism is a Jewish nationalistic movement declaring that the Jewish people (just like other peoples) have a right for self-determination (a sovereign state). Anti-Zi0nism, therefore, is a claim that the Jewish people (UNLIKE Germans, Poles, Russians, Japanese, Persians or Arabs) DO NOT have a right for self-determination and is, therefore, DISCRIMINATION of Jews because of their ethnicity. Discrimination of people based on race or ewthnicity is, by definition, RACISM.

      March 29, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Reply
  6. mary

    Listen when your having bombs shooting into your house you get your peple and beat the crap out of the otherside. The Palestinians are good for killing but cry when they get it back two-fold. In lebanon the Palestinians shelled them every day for months, they didn't care if they killed Jews Christian or anyone else. When the Jews fought back they cried help. Christian families lost and where told to get out or get killed. So I will not be boycotting Israel and you better hope there around when the Palestinians really start the war with Irans help.

    March 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • Thread Patrol

      What does this have to do with food?

      March 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Reply
  7. WilliamCPace

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    March 29, 2012 at 8:45 am | Reply
  8. bj

    No bagels? No hummus? Have they lost their minds? At least be consistent. They need to avoid anything ever invented by the Jews. A short list: most computer chips, certain fast chain restaurants, most hospital equipment. Better check their medications as well to make sure that none were manufactured by TEVA. No watching of any movie or TV show with a Jew or Israeli. No more original Star Trek episodes for them. What not blame Hamas and Fatah? They have more than a few dollars to spare. Are they helping Gaza? No.They are not.

    March 29, 2012 at 8:45 am | Reply
  9. bj

    I do hope that the members are not just being hypocrites about this. They need to avoid anything ever invented by the Jews. A short list: using most computer chips, certain fast chain restaurants, most hospital equipment. Better check their medications as well to make sure that none were manufactured by TEVA. No watching of any movie or TV show with a Jew or Israeli. Hamas and Fatah have a few dollars to spare but they let the Palestinians starveq

    March 29, 2012 at 8:36 am | Reply
  10. Beefburger

    How about we chuck the Halal goods while we are at it in response to mistreatment of women? Of course we cannot have anything made in the USA for its past of slavery and genocide. Or from China for sweatshops and human rights violations.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:14 am | Reply
  11. Thinker23

    As long as the Palestinians and their supporters are willing the war to continue it will continue and more Palestinians will be killed. When the number of dead Palestinians will satisfy those still alive they will ask for peace.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Reply
    • rdeleys

      You mean when the Palestinians capitulate, don't you? 1) Israel is unlawfully occupying Palestinian land (West Bank), helping itself to both the land and the water rights, making Palestinians foreigners in their own country. 2) The balance of power is completely lopsided in favor of the Israelis (tanks, fighter jets, artillery, guided missiles, and nuclear weapons vs. rocks, strap-on bombs, and a few inaccurate, short-range rockets).

      March 29, 2012 at 10:08 am | Reply
      • jban

        ohh the poor Palestinians, they recieve millions in aid from the US and EU. They have never come to the table and agreed to any form of compromise accept deals that have Isreal give away land that Isreal gained from orginal Arab aggression. Even Yasser Arafat was born in Egypt and died with a net worth of 1.3 billion dollars, so sorry for the poor, poor people who can only shoot homemade rockes. Give me a break every Arab nation also has a wall around the west bank and does nothing but use the Palestinians as tools to squeezing Isreal. Because the whole Palestinian movement, the slums, the low employment rate, the lack of education and facilities are created by the Arab niehbors.

        March 29, 2012 at 11:34 am | Reply
      • JonfromLI

        Israel would have never occupied the West Bank and Gaza had it not been for the 1967 Six-Day War. If you want to blame anybody, blame the Arab nations for threatening Israel's existence.

        March 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Reply
      • Thinker23

        rdeleys... The Palestinians have exactly two choices, to negotiate a peace agreement (to "capitulate" in your language) or, alternatively, to continue their war against Israel. I want them to LIVE IN PEACE. You, apparently, want them to DIE AT WAR.

        March 29, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Reply
    • Alex

      What a great mentality. If a country opposes you, beat them into submission till they surrender. Men, women, children, it doesn't matter, they are all enemies of Israel, right?

      Pathetic.

      If Israel wants to find and kill the suspected terrorist and rocket makers, you have my support. But if you're going to fire a missile into every house that is suspected of launching or building a rocket without confirming the presence of the attackers or if there are any innocent civilians in the way, then you've lost my support. There are instigators on both sides of this conflict with many innocent bystanders.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:25 am | Reply
      • AleeD®

        Well said Alex.

        March 29, 2012 at 11:51 am | Reply
      • Thinker23

        "What a great mentality. If a country opposes you, beat them into submission till they surrender. Men, women, children, it doesn't matter, they are all enemies of Israel, right?"

        Wrong. Living in peace is not exactly "surrender". Further, NO ONE,not even Israel has the magic weapon hurting the bad guys only. If Palestinian civilians did not want to be hurt they would distance themselves from the terrorsts. On the other hand, as long as these civilians vote for and support Hamas and other terrorist organizations it means that they're happy with the terrorist war against Israel and are willing it to continue.

        March 29, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  12. Thinker23

    It would be way more productive if instead of boycotting Israel and Israeli goods the Palestinians and their supporters RECOGNIZED Israel and asked for epace negotiations.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Reply

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