WE ARE THE 39 PERCENT! (and that’s huge, for New York)

In the NY Times, Clyde Haberman asked about the Park Slope Food Coop referendum: “Why is Israel singled out for economic ostracism and not China, the ruthless occupier of Tibet and a denier of fundamental human rights to its own people?”

There are several answers:

1) Israel claims to speak in the name of all Jews everywhere — including me. I support the boycott of Israel because I refuse to allow the fact that I’m Jewish be used by the Israeli government as a ruse rationalizing the horrors that State is perpetrating against the Palestinian people. Not in my name!

2) Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign military aid. Its war machine is propped up by our tax dollars ($27 billion in last 10 years). Thus, we have an added responsibility to speak out against Israel’s egregious policies and our own government’s as well.

3) I, and most others at the Coop, are most certainly involved in other campaigns for labor, human, social justice and environmental rights.

The resolution proposed to the Park Slope Food Coop contained two issues wrapped up in one: Democracy at the Food Coop, and whether to boycott products from Israel.

Rabbi Andy Bachman explicitly argued to deny that all members be polled: “Some issues are not for everyone to vote on. This is one of them.”

I beg to differ.

Regardless of one’s view of the proposed boycott, one should uphold the right of all Coop members — including those too fearful of the pro-Zionist thugs to attend the meeting — to vote on the issue, and to do so free from intimidation and fear.

To do otherwise thrashes a core principle of why we’re a Coop and NOT just a cheaper grocery store (though some would have it otherwise).

I was actually thrilled that almost 40 percent of those present at the meeting — around 2x what I’d thought – agreed, and bucked the heavy artillery, voting to put the issue before the entire membership. Wow! That’s a huge achievement. Recall, please:

– the entire NY City elected government opposed the resolution. (Bloomberg & de Blasio actually made statements denouncing it);

– the entire NYC media editorialized against the referendum;

– local Rabbis rallied their congregations against the resolution;

– the Coop’s paid founders (Joe Holtz, Allan Zimmerman) campaigned hard against the resolution;

– the pro-Zionist group published virtually the same letter in every Gazette, twisting arms, guilt-tripping and name-calling (“Self-Hating Jew” was the least of what I and others were called);

– pro-Israel disruptors and thugs yelling out repeatedly when pro-Resolution speakers criticized Israel;

Many of the 45 speakers at the meeting made statements criticizing Israel’s crimes. That overwhelming rejection of Israeli and U.S. government propaganda is itself an achievement. Many argued, though, that whatever the horrors being committed, it wasn’t the Coop’s place to settle the world’s problems. Only two speakers spoke in favor of Israel’s policies per se.

As a compromise, I’m introducing a new resolution that would boycott products made by Israeli settlers in the colonized territories. I hope you’ll vote for it.

Beethoven’s Ninth (Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”) rewritten and sung as plea to Israel to end its Occupation of Palestine (only 1-minute long).




One Response

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  • Art Brown says:

    Hi Mitchel,

    I just read your blog entry and have a couple of comments. First, thanks for voicing your opinion, and I appreciate the opportunity to voice an opposing opinion on your page. I hope you read my comments in the spirit of respectful dissension that they’re intended.

    1) Forgive me, but I’m not clear from your blog whether you were at the meeting. If not, that explains some of the inaccuracy of your reporting. I was there. Sat through the whole thing from start to finish.

    a) It was 35%, not 39% who voted for the referendum, and 65% who voted no. That’s very close to a 2/3 majority who opposed it. (The actual tally was 1,005 against the BDS referendum, and 653 for it.)

    2) At the start of the meeting, the BDS folks presented a slideshow with heart-wrenching images of Palestinians wounded and killed in this conflict. I admit these images were awful and did tug at my heart – just as images of any human suffering does.

    What was missing were any images, or mention, of Israeli civilians maimed and wounded in like manner – from rockets, suicide bombers and other forms of attack.

    My point is that this organization, (and I believe many similar groups) presents a one-sided answer to a many sided problem, frequently ignoring or denying the people of Israel’s right to also live in peace.

    3) Conflict cannot be resolved by vilifying one side. It never works. In my opinion, both parties have valid points, and until both parties are willing to listen to each other’s grievances, little will change.

    4) I disagree with your assertion that “Israel claims to speak in the name of all Jews everywhere.” I don’t know what evidence you base that claim on. I’ve never heard any Israeli official claim to speak for all Jews. I also know many Jews, both secular and religious, who dissavow Israel.

    5) Your claims that “local Rabbis rallied their congregations,” and that “pro-zionist groups published the same letter in the gazette,” reads to me like classic anti-semetic rhetoric – straight out of Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I campaigned against BDS. I belong to no temple, nor did any secret cabal dictate or edit my letter.

    6) I leafleted against the BDS referendum in front of my coop, and I personally witnessed ample name-calling and thuggery from BOTH sides. I was variously called “a paid agitator”, “a zionist dupe,” told I “have blood on my hands” and physically threatened. For the record, like you, I’m just a NY Jew with an opinion.

    Thanks again for allowing a dissenting opinion on your blog. All the best to you.

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