The Park Slope Food Coop battle is over: a resolution to hold a referendum on whether the Brooklyn cooperative should cease to sell products made in Israel (currently a small number) was defeated at last night’s monthly meeting by a vote of 1,005 to 653. Because it’s a hot-button issue, with the referendum’s supporters explicitly allied with the international B.D.S. (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, in a heavily Jewish neighborhood in the country’s largest media market, the debate, which is really over consumer preferences in a small corner of the world, has received wildly outsize attention, including from this blog. While the meeting, held off-site (in Fort Greene, scandalously!) to accommodate the expected crowds, had to be delayed 45 minutes as a line wended around the block, reports over Twitter (somewhat limited, as live-tweeting was apparently discouraged) suggest that the gathering, at which about four dozen members spoke for a few minutes each and then the vote was held, was relatively subdued, at least more than expected. The meeting was only open to members; this reporter was therefore unable to attend. For fuller reports, I suggest @ChadwickMatlin and Tablet Magazine’s @saraivry and @irincarmon.
I did get some audio snippets, including of the supporters’ initial presentation. This proved that each side has its own “did you know?” series, such as, to quote one: “And you never hear that three former Israeli prime ministers have compared the situation to apartheid” (Peres, Barak, and Olmert, no?). “Collective action is what makes boycotts effective,” noted another. The best argument this side had was that the vote last night was merely for the referendum: “Only a full vote is truly democratic and keeping with the Coop’s values and precedents,” declared a third. “Voting yes to referendum is not a yes to boycott. It simply allows every voice to be heard.”
But Joe Holtz, the Coop’s original employee and current general manager, made the anti-referendum case specifically on those grounds, as opposed to political ones. “We didn’t get here by passing the responsibility from a meeting to a referendum where people don’t have to think about facing each other and really thinking about the issues,” he said. “Our form of governance is a higher form than the referendum. Occasionally, the members of these meetings have authorized a referendum. But the Coop probably wouldn’t exist today if we were a referendum coop.”
Rabbi Andy Bachman, of Park Slope’s Congregation Beth Elohim, an opponent of the referendum, was one of the folks selected at random from the names of those who requested to speak (contra some suggestions on Twitter, he swore that his name, as far as he knows, was selected at random). “We motored through and it was rejected overwhelmingly,” Bachman said, and said as much in a longer blog post.
Indeed. And yet, here’s betting a lot more people know what BDS is now than did two months ago.
And I’m not even counting the Daily Show segment.
Food Coop Rejects Efforts to Boycott Israeli-Made Products [NYT]
BDS Referendum Defeated: Reflections [Water Over Rocks]
Earlier: Much Ado About … Well, Something