To stock paprika, or not to stock paprika?
That is the question at the Park Slope Food Coop, where members are debating whether to boycott products from Israel.
The issue surfaced after a member suggested the co-op join Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, a movement that supports a global boycott of Israeli products.
Items imported from Israel that some want to ban include paprika, a make-your-own seltzer machine, vegan marshmallows, olive pesto and produce.
BDS supporters hope that economic pressure from a boycott will put an end to what they say are Israel's human rights abuses against Palestinians.
This controversial global conflict has tucked into the supermarket shelves. The co-op will vote March 27 on whether to hold a referendum on the boycott, which would poll every member on whether to pull the products from the shelves.
The co-op, which has nearly 16,000 members, is expecting a crowd on the 27th.
It moved its regular monthly meeting from where it is normally held, in a synagogue, which holds the typical 300 attendance, to Fort Greene’s Brooklyn Technical High School, which can hold 1,500 people, said Ann Herpel, 48, the co-op's general coordinator.
Letters from both sides have filled the co-op's newsletters in recent months.
“It’s been buzzing around here for a while,” Herpel said.
Herpel said a boycott would likely include “less than five products,” but supporters say the symbolism is key.
“If the co-op stopped selling the products that it sells from Israel, it's not like it's going to cause an economic collapse,” said Melissa, a 36-year-old co-op member who supports the proposed boycott. “The symbolism is what is weighty.”
Barbara Mazor, a 54-year-old engineer, started the group More Hummus, Please, to fight the boycott.
“This is something that’s really outside the scope of what the co-op does. People come to the co-op to save money on food,” she said. “It’s an attempt to force a position on people.”
More Hummus, Please
This does nothing to bring peace
The BDS movement does nothing to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians, or improve the lives of Palestinians. Peace will come through a negotiated settlement between the two parties that will include mutual recognition of rights and national aspirations. The BDS leadership works against peace by rejecting all cooperative endeavors between Israelis and Palestinians. By placing all blame on one party only, and by ignoring context, the BDS movement serves to bolster the most rejectionist elements of the Palestinian cause.
The three demands of BDS are based on a faulty understanding of the relevant international law. The real goal of BDS is to end the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Thus, BDS has been rejected over and over by every institution where it has tried to get an honest endorsement. BDS looks forward to yet another stunning defeat at the Park Slope Food Coop.
Co-op needs to stand on right side of history
A co-op referendum is the most democratic way to decide on BDS. The trope of calling all who criticize Israel anti-Semitic is absurd. Like me, many Jews work to end Israel’s occupation, settlements, land annexation, domination and violence. One hundred and fifty Palestinian civil society organizations have called for boycott. The call is being answered with enthusiasm globally. Hundreds of actions have been taken by universities, religious institutions, political parties, municipalities, banks and unions.
Alice Walker, Dustin Hoffman, Meg Ryan, Carlos Santana, Bjork, Brian Eno, Elvis Costello and Desmond Tutu are just some BDS supporters. South Africa’s campaign took decades to achieve what this campaign accomplished in its first five years.
The co-op can lag behind global opinion or stand on the right side of history and join the growing international movement to end Israeli oppression of Palestinians.
Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @AlisonatMetro