Most years at Passover I write a diary focused on the origins of Jews based on my expertise both in genetics and history. Passover celebrates, supposedly, the escape of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. It is an origin myth and like most origin myths (Thanksgiving included) it has some clear BS and some threads that probably connect to real history. The escape from Egypt is considered one of the defining moments in Judaism, perhaps THE defining moment. Into this event is in some ways placed the entirety of the ancient Jewish identity, supposedly divided into "12 tribes," as well as the defining of Jewish religious law. That is a lot to put into one holiday! But there is a more general theme, that of the struggle for freedom that many cultures can relate to. read more »
The Park Slope Food Co-op (full disclosure: I am a member!) makes it to the Daily Show:
The boycott was, of course, voted down in the end...at least for now...
By a vote of 1005-653 the Park Slope Food Co-op voted not to hold a referendum on boycotting Israeli products. Supporters argue that Israels human rights record towards the Palestinians is poor enough to warrant a boycott. Opponents argue that the boycott is inappropriate for the co-op, overly divisive to the membership, and unfairly singles out Israel when the co-op carries products from other countries that have human rights records similar to or worse than Israel's.
The vote shows that the boycott is unlikely to be embraced any time soon, but also shows that both sides are well represented among the membership. The letters section of the co-op's newsletter have been filled every single issue with letters from both sides. However, by now I think the majority of co-op members are sick of the whole issue and would prefer both sides give it a rest...or at least many letters to that effect have been published more recently.
To me the most disturbing thing about the boycott movement is a nearly complete unwillingness to even give credence to the other side. Opponents (and I am one of them) are often sympathetic to Palestinians (I am even open to a UN seat for Palestine) and highly critical of the right wing government of Israel. But not supportive of a boycott by the food co-op. So from that side there is common ground. I have even recommended a strategy that could possibly lead to a boycott of Israel without unfairly singling it out: set human rights criteria that a nation must meet or face a boycott by the co-op. This would mean China and Turkey would almost certainly be boycotted as well, but perhaps the free Tibet movement (which has called for a boycott of China) would like that. And Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian, and Greek advocates call for a boycott of Turkey. Set standards in such a way as to boycott Israel and you almost certainly will see boycotts of other nations as well, but at least this would be consistent and fair. But the boycott movement ONLY wants to target Israel and won't listen to any suggestion that makes the boycott unbiased. This does little to reassure those who feel there is some degree of anti-Semitism on the boycott movement (something that is not necessarily there but too often seems to attract anti-Semites). read more »
So it seems that the drama in Park Slope - over whether or not the Co-Op food store there should or should not become the second such venture in the United States to boycott Israel and its products - the first and only is in Olympia, Washington, while several others have declined to participate - is finally coming to a head, with a vote on whether to have a vote scheduled tomorrow.
Having flown under the radar for quite some time, now, the political sphere is taking notice, and seems none too pleased.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a candidate for Mayor in 2013, entered the discussion Sunday afternoon by calling the potential boycott “an outrage to our collective values as New Yorkers.”
“The inflammatory proposal to boycott products from the State of Israel is wrongheaded and an affront to American values and interests,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “This movement—nationally and internationally—is a destructive force that must be stopped. It undermines America’s relationship with our steadfast partner in the fight against terrorism and our strongest ally in the Middle East.”
“These are businesses that should be run as businesses,” Bloomberg said at the St. Patrick’s Parade yesterday in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. “I certainly am adamantly opposed to boycotting Israeli products . . . Israel is a very important ally of America. We shouldn’t forget that.”
Me, I'm just wondering when this pointless exercise in leftier-than-thou will be over so the good people of the Co-Op can go back to back to, as one member told the Times, "just want[ing] really good dried fruit.”
As Michael has written a couple of times, there is a movement (far from new, but getting more attention this year) that is trying to get the Park Slope Food Co-op to boycott all products from Israel. This presumably would include products like those from Meditalia whose main focus is promoting peace, supporting moderates on all sides, and creating markets for Israeli, Palestinian, Turkish and Egyptian goods. These products are available at the Park Slope Food Co-op and would be included in this boycott:
MEDITALIA™ Tapenades and Pestos are produced in Israel through cooperation between Israelis, Arabs and other neighbours. The olives are grown in Palestinian villages, the glass jars are made in Egypt, and the sun-dried tomatoes come from Turkey.
PeaceWorks believes that personal contact between these groups will shatter cultural stereotypes and help people live together peacefully. Five percent of the profits from MEDITALIA™ Pestos and Tapenades go to support the PeaceWorks Foundation to foster peaceful co-existence in the world.
So Meditalia products are worth boycotting, but the many, many items sold at the Co-op from China or Lebanon are okey dokey. That is the message being sent.
My beef with the whole so-called "BDS" movement is that it boils down NOT to a push for human rights but to hatred for Israel. Here I can speak only for how it is being applied at the Park Slope Food Co-op because here ONLY Israel is being targeted. And yet China has a MUCH worse human rights record and I have seen no organized movement to boycott products from China. Turkey, Thailand, and Lebanon are certainly no better than Israel and may well be worse, yet no one talks about their human rights records. All of these nations are represented on the shelves of the Co-op with hardly ANY mention of their human rights records. Yet Israel takes up hours of time at the General Meetings, pages and pages of letters in the Co-op newsletter, and many trees' worth of flyers handed out by the pro- and anti-sides of the debate.
Why? Why ONLY Israel? Is somehow Israel worse than China or Turkey? I think by any objective standard Israel is BETTER than China and perhaps equal to Turkey. Kurds and Armenians may think Turkey should be boycotted rather than Israel.
The Co-op is one of the most diverse communities I have seen in America. Though Park Slope is in many ways the poster child community for white privilege and arrogance, the Co-op draws from all over NYC and beyond. Hassids rub shoulders with blacks and South Asians as well as hippies and yuppies. Food Stamps are accepted regularly. They offer child care. Everyone has to work, no one can buy out of the work requirement. It is about as close as I have seen to an equal while still very multicultural society.
To divide this issue over ONE nation is stupid.
Boycotts are important and I would even be open to a boycott that included Israel if it was unbiased and fair rather than singling out one nation. There really IS a way to do this and the Food Co-op is one place where it could be done right if that is really what people want.
Decide on a set of criteria that would trigger a boycott. Do so without bias towards or against any particular nation or ethnic group. Then apply those criteria to products from all nations. This would mean if the Co-op boycotts Israel for its human rights record, it would also be boycotting China, Lebanon, Turkey, Thailand, etc. There would be no hypocrisy, no apparent anti-Semitism, no bias, merely a consistent policy.
No one advocates this. They only single out Israel and in so doing split an otherwise amazingly diverse community where all members are about as close to equal as I think you can get. Perhaps such a fair and unbiased policy would rule out too many products. In which case the idea of a boycott based on the human rights record of a nation's government has to be either narrowed (in which case I doubt Israel would be included) or abandoned.
Boycotts of individual companies based on company policy seem completely different. But to boycott a company like Meditalia over the policies of Netanyahu makes no sense unless you apply the criteria of the boycott to all nations, not just Israel.
If the BDS movement pushed for a fair, unbiased and consistent boycott, I might agree with them. But they don't. They single out ONE nation and that one not even the one with the worst human rights record and that leads me to wonder why.