Shut Up, Park Slope Coop.

Look, I’m not against Coops. I’m also not against Communism. You do what works for you. But the notion of boycotting Israeli made products in an effort to catalyze peace in the Middle East is silly, small minded, and incredibly selfish.

And speaking of Brooklyn…The Park Slope Food Coop is currently considering joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions organization, a movement that wants everyone in the world to stop ordering vegan marshmallows, olive pesto, and a machine that helps you make your own seltzer from Israel. The coop which has 16,000 members will vote on March 27th. It’s actually incredible to me that this is a thing that is happening. In America. Never mind the fact that this foolishness impacts businessmen with families, and kids, and dogs, and babies, and all of those things, but to think that this is the way to harbor peace and change in the world. Welcome to protesting 2012. We don’t leave our homes to stand outside consulates any more with placards and bullhorns. We just don’t buy tehina.

Look, I can’t say that I agree with 100% of the things Israel does, but to think that a change in a Brooklyn supermarket’s inventory will impact an incredibly fraught political atmosphere. The notion of punishing the people, not the politicians frankly doesn’t work. And this by no means justifies any social injustice perpetrated around the world (whether or not such a thing exists is up for debate), but to hypocritically not exercise this practice in other aspects of your consumer life is baffling. Why are the socially conscious in Park Slope (16,000 of them!) still buying Apple products after news report after news report establishes Foxconn as an unhealthy workplace causing more than a couple of employees to commit suicide? And why isn’t the plight of the Tibetans a more widespread cause–after all, how many Park Slope Food Coop products are exported from China? Should I go on? Shall we walk down the aisles of the coop and point out how many problems there are associated with each and every food item? I mean, I’d be there all day. And that wouldn’t be allowed because I’m not a Coop members (hey, how’d you get in here!?!)

But the point here is not that the Coop’s cooperative heart isn’t in the right place because I’m sure it is. In fact, I know plenty of people from Park Slope. They’re adorably idealistic. I want to hug them all. But once you open this Pandora’s Box of finger pointing, why should it start and end with Israel? My parents’ generation would say that this is another form of Anti-Semitism. I don’t think it’s that simple. It’s coming from an uneducated and myopic place, where the world is made up of black and whites and where more is expected of Jews. It’s kind of a backhanded compliment.
Yet, there’s nothing black and white about the political situation in Israel, and there are no absolute right and wrongs. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have a mutual responsibility to work this through which is why it’s taking so long to find resolution. They’re very passionate people, but perhaps everything could be worked out over vegan marshmallows and seltzer?

What do you think?

About The Author

Arye Dworken

Arye Dworken lives in a tastefully decorated two bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side with his wife, son, and dog named Barrett. Barrett is named after one of the original members of Pink Floyd yet Arye wouldn't necessarily consider himself a big Pink Floyd fan. It just felt like a good dog name. You can find more Arye on aryedworken.tumblr.com or twitter.com/aryedworken.

27 Responses

  1. DP

    Very well put, thank you for speaking out against BDS. The organization purposely takes any blame off of Hamas/Jihad, and places it all on Israel.

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  2. Stop BDS Park Slope

    Arye –

    All of your points are well taken. The Coop is a diverse group of 16,000 people and I would guess you will be hard pressed to find more than 100 who actually support this boycott.

    Unfortunately, the Coop’s governance system is not designed to provide protection from people who are willing to abuse the Coop’s reputation. If you would like to mock and critique the way the Coop governance works, by all means go ahead. But please don’t smear the thousands who just want to save thousands of dollars a year on their shopping bills. This group does not represent us, but they too can save money on food.

    I have been working for the last 10 months on organizing opposition to BDS at the Coop. We will get out the vote and deliver a resounding defeat to BDS – just like everywhere else that BDS has been subjected to a wide vote.

    Thanks for your support.

    Barbara Mazor

    Reply
  3. Arye Dworken
    Arye Dworken

    Barbara. I sincerely wish you a lot of luck in all your endeavors. Thank you for your comments.

    Reply
  4. Courtney Becks

    Don’t you think that it’s the point that these are people with families, responsibilities, etc.? Isn’t that the point of a boycott? To put pressure where it matters? And I’m sure there were people saying boycotting South Africa was misguided and inappropriate for the same reasons.

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  5. Arye Dworken
    Arye Dworken

    Courtney – I’m very conflicted about punishing of the people for the decisions politicians make. Moreover, as I wrote, I think the onus is on both ends. In many instances of compromise, the Palestinians are just as guilty as the Israelis. Why not an equal opportunity boycott?
    You mention South Africa but there’s a fundamental difference between the two situations. And I think that’s where the Coop is inherently wrong: in using the same logic.

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  6. Michelle

    There is not actually a hierarchy of bad behavior among countries, and the same tactics are not being called for in every circumstance. In the case of Israel’s decades of international law violations, a boycott campaign *is* the tactic in play at the moment. That’s not the case with China or, for that matter, the U.S. and its own bad behavior. Besides, it’s not unheard of for activists to be part of the movement for peace in Israel/Palestine *and* other social justice groups, including the ones you toss off. And the reason that these two “passionate” peoples can’t just “work it out over vegan marshmallows and seltzer” is that there’s a power imbalance – one population is at the mercy of a state that has the power, the guns, and the knee-jerk mainstream American support (as we see in your article). And the reason that people might call for an international boycott of goods and culture, knowing that they themselves may be affected negatively as well, is because the alternative (occupation, human rights abuses, etc.) is *worse.* By the way, there are also some Israeli Jews supportive of the BDS movement (Boycott from Within, at boycottisrael.info).

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  7. Arye Dworken
    Arye Dworken

    Michelle – Obviously this conversation is way too intense and wayyyy tooo heated to have over the comment section of our website. And I know you cite Boycott from Within as a source of pride, but ultimately, nothing saddens me more than Jews hurting Jews. I’m not presumptuous enough to think I have all the answers for this but selling out our own people, or rather, buying out, in my opinion, is very much not the answer.

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  8. Charlene

    A clarification: The Coop’s vote on March 27 will happen at our monthly business meeting, and it is a vote on whether we should have a referendum to vote on this issue. So, it’s a vote on whether we should vote.

    Reply
  9. Marc

    Every Jew in the NY metropolitan area should be out in front of this co-op run by tree hugging anti Semitic communists and self loathing Jews to let them know that we’re not gonna take this crap anymore. Close down this dump and go buy some real food.

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  10. Rina

    I completely agree with Marc and I also want to add my 2 cents on this subject. I thought that people, who is in selling food business do their business with their brains, and not with their political preferenses. First of all, this boycott business is like bumerang. When this Coop started to sell Israel food in their store they probably made reseach if there would be constumers, who will buy this staff. Now if they stop to sell Israel products, people, who came to buy them, will be not coming to this store and will find the same things in the different place. Coop also probably made an agreement to sell Israel products and if they will sto to sell it. it would be breach of contract and I hope our Israel companies sue them, for the breach of contract. And what this people gane from their stupid behaviour? Nothing good. First they loos costumers, second they would be sued and third the companies from other countries would think twice to have business with people, who do their business with political choices. I hpe with company just go down for their stupidy and I have no sympathy to this bigots. They will gos what ever they decerve.

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  11. Robert

    Norman Finkelstein (no Zionist, to be sure), in a moment of candor asserted that the goal of the BDS movement is the destruction of Israel. For once, Norman was right. Such evil should not be on the agenda of the Park Slope Food Coop.

    Reply
  12. Alex

    Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism are not the same, but they’re ultimately caused by the same thing: a hatred of the bourgeoisie.

    Reply
  13. David

    I think it is fine, but the Park Slope Coop should also consider boycotting US products as well, and products from the UK, Norway, Poland, Spain, Italy, Australia, Tonga, Ukraine, South Korea, Mexico, El Salvador, Estonia, Colombia, Latvia, Thailand, Nicaraqua, Dominican Replublic and a couple of dozen other countries who supported the bloody and criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003. This should also include any ‘fair trade’ or ‘indigenous’ products from the developing countries, as the people who benefit from those products are citizens of their countries and did nothing to stop the invasion. Actually, this goes for Park Slope Coop members themselves – they should boycott themselves, and each other, and all of the day care centers and latte joints in Park Slope, as they pay taxes which support US foreign policy. I mean, if we’re going to boycott products from countries that have problematic and destructive foreign and domestic policies, we might as well go all the way, right? This would leave us with the opportunity to purchase products from France, and Switzerland, which did not invade Iraq (no oil rights) and perhaps somewhere like Andorra and Lichtenstein, where there is no army and where I think they make cheese and chocolate, which would probably be enough to live on.

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  14. Matt Smith

    Arye –

    Your arguments come down to these:

    argument 1:

    1. If you are going to boycott one country’s goods because you disagree with that country’s politics, then you should boycott the goods from EVERY country whose politics you find disagreeable.

    2. If you don’t live up to the standards articulated in #1, then you are a hypocrite – you should shut up.

    3. There are many countries whose politics people at the Park Slope Food Coop (PSFC) probably find disagreeable.

    4. But, they are not advocating boycotting those countries.

    5. So, these people are hypocrites – they should shut up.

    I just disagree with your premise 2. The standards articulated in premise 1 express an *ideal* – we should all hope to spend our money on products whose origins aren’t morally problematic. But, we cannot manage to do that – we’d be annoying ultra-locavores some many people love to hate (because they seem so self-righteous, but then again they are living up to the principle that you so stridently insist upon, so maybe they ought to be self-righteous – at least more self-righteous than those of us who fail to live up to principle #1).

    So, if we cannot live up to principle #1, we have to pick and choose whom to boycott.

    Here’s where your second argument comes in:

    1. You should pick to boycott one country vs. another on the basis of some defensible principle.

    2. There is no defensible principle that would support boycotting Israel vs. any other country.

    3. So, it is either anti-semitism or a wooly-headed view of Jews as politically special that explains the choice by some at the PSFC to try to boycott Israel.

    But, here you haven’t defended #2. Maybe there *is* a defensible principle that would support boycotting Israel vs. any other country.

    Here’s one: A boycott might actually contribute to change! The shame some Israelis feel at being boycotted might help to push them towards changing their practices.

    Here’s another: The US has a very special relationship with Israel: our financial, diplomatic and military support is basically the only reason Israel can sustain many of its policies. So, we Americans are somewhat complicit in maintaining these policies. So, we, as Americans, may want to take whatever steps we can to limit that complicity. A boycott is a symbolic way to do that.

    There are, of course, many others.

    My point, then, is that instead of mocking the PSFC and its members, you might consider honestly engaging with some of these commitments that might be behind the boycott.

    My suspicion, though, is that you don’t want to do that. Why? Because I suspect you don’t think Israel is doing anything particularly morally objectionable. That is: Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is more or less morally permissible, or at least as permissible as the way any other country would treat certain people within its borders.

    That is another matter altogether. And, I suspect that it is where lies the real disagreement between you and the boycott people. So, you might be more up front about that.

    Finally, I am a member of the PSFC, a semi-observant Jew (go to shul on high holidays, host seders, no-pork/no-shellfish kosher, occasional Shabbos dinners) and, quite honestly, I don’t really care one way or the other about the boycott. There are bigger fish to fry.

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  15. Susannah

    Right on David, what about products from Syria, Somalia, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan or are those regimes and politics exempt from the Park Slope politically correct douchebag’s mindset. Give me an f-ing break.

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  16. Michael

    Thank you for coming out and taking a stand like this on BDS. It’s important for people step up and make the cause against silliness like the BDS folks. Humor is a particularly good way of making the point against them, because by and large most of these people, if you listen to them, are quite humorless.

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  17. Matt Smith

    Susannah –

    Can you check on whether Park Slope politically correct douchebags at the Park Slope Food Coop are actually carrying products from Syria, Somalia, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan?

    And, if they are, what would you say if, after hearing you politely point out their hypocrisy, these Park Slope politically correct douchebags agreed not to carry those products?

    I assume that their politically correct douchebaggery would, at least in your estimation, stand unabated, if not in fact inflated. But would you still have a special reason to be so angry with them? Or are you just angry at politically correct douchebags in general? Also, do you have a well-worked out set of douchebaggery criteria? I bet having a minor disagreement with you is sufficient for someone to count as a douchebag in your eyes. But is there something more?

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  18. Jeff

    Highly unlikely it will happen. I understand it took them two years and multiple meetings make a decision to discontinue a certain bottled water, or some such thing.

    Meanwhile, *I* had a dog named Barret! (This was decades ago, before humans devolved to become less intelligent than dogs.) I’ve never met anyone else who had. Mine was a Beagle mix. What’s yours?

    Reply
  19. McQueen

    You are naive if you think this is coming from the right place and is a compliment of any kind.

    Reply
  20. Neil Cohen

    They love China and everything it does to Tibet is okay and they sure love those cheap electronics. They love India and everything it does to women and untouchables is okay. Pakistan is a great place with all those cheap clothes. They love Syria and Egypt – ‘nuf said. Let the Turks kill all the Kurds – fine with them. And if Russians want to slaughter tens of thousands of Muslims, well – it’s good ol’ Russia! They love America and would never boycott American things. They just have a simple obsession – they hate Jews.

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  21. Anonymous

    Thanks for writing this. I firmly believe the reason coop members are wanting to boycot products from Israel is that people from anti-Israel organizations have been handing out flyers in front of the coop! The public has obviously responded the way these organizations hoped they would! Just a few weeks ago I got a flyer saying the gov’t should stop aid to Israel. In fact, the government has recently decreased their aid to Irael and widely increased their funding to Arab countries. But this is what the public does not know about. Something is wrong with this picture. And I agree that other products should be pulled from shelves if in fact this does happen. The coop still sells raw pumpkin seeds from China when they could be exporting them from within the US or from other countries.

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  22. Matthew

    Would the Coop really go through with anti-Israel BDS? It’s a very offensive and agressive action not against an industry (like walmart or Shell oil) or against a select group of people (like the Koch brothers or the Adelsons) but it’s against an entire country, its culture, its faith, and its accomplishments. If BDS was just “Boycott” and if that was of just a few very specific industries in Israel (like, I’m making this up as an example, a winery from an Illegal settlement in the west bank) i think it would be less harmful, send a clearer message, and garner more support, without risking the possibility of Jewish Park Slopers defecting from the Coop.

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  23. Myra Chanin

    Re: Alex’s comment
    Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism are not the same, but they’re ultimately caused by the same thing: a hatred of the bourgeoisie.

    Actually it isn’t a hatred of the bourgeoisie. the one thing that anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism have in common are Jews.

    Reply
  24. George

    Personally I am boycotting the SodaStream you mentioned because all their syrups have Splenda in them. I hope being anti-sucralose doesn’t make me appear antisemitic. I really believe you can be anti-sucralose while not being anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and even anti-SodaStream.

    Reply
  25. William Tashman

    As an anti-boycotter and former coop member for many years–since 1981–I think the anti- boycotters are going about this all wrong.
    Here’s what they should do:
    Propose the following:
    We will support your boycott of Israel-made products 100% if you also agree to the following:
    boycott products made by every single country–including the United States–that currently has human-rights violations any where in the world. Or just the United States.
    Of course, the pro-boycotters will shoot this down–I’d love to hear their reasons, but it will be some euphemism that is tantamount to anti-Semitism, and that will give lie to their claims.
    Period. Political judo.

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  26. Pamela Olson

    There are good reasons many communities of social justice activists all over the world are focusing on Israel right now, and it has nothing to do with being stupid or anti-Semitic.
    .
    In 2005, the Palestinian people, who are being crushed under an occupation that regularly commits horrific human rights abuses, asked the world to do this one small thing to help even out the power imbalance just a little. And guess what? One of the main reasons they called for the NON-VIOLENT tactic of resistance is because they are tired of violence.
    .
    You wanted Palestinian Gandhis? You got ‘em. You said nothing could be done while violence was going on, and now Palestinian violence has all but ceased and turned to non-violent tactics. If you’re still complaining, it says a lot about how much you actually want peace with justice, vs. simply letting Israel do whatever it wants, expropriate as much land as it wants, regardless of the consequences for other people.
    .
    Regarding the human rights abuses, I lived there for two and a half years, and the abuses are much worse than I ever imagined. I’ve spoken with many black South Africans who visited Palestine and said without hesitation that the occupation is worse than Apartheid ever was. I wrote a book about it called Fast Times in Palestine if you want to learn more (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00513NHNI).
    .
    Most of my references in my book are from Israeli sources. Journalists and organizations in Israel are allowed a broader spectrum of dissent than we are allowed here in America without attack dogs accusing us of stupidity mixed with latent anti-Semitism and telling us the onus is on us to solve every single problem in the world before we’re allowed to say one peep about the country that is the single largest recipient of US foreign aid in the world.

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  27. mike

    the park slop coop is leading the way and setting an example for all others to follow. we all need to join together and ban products that we don’t like. some would say a personal boycott would be better but why dance the dance when you can punish everyone else and turn your business into everyone’s. as far as your silly comparison about apple. i really need my iphone, ipad, macbook etc.. for work and i refuse to use an inferior product because Chinese people are not happy about their job. what they do is none of my business.

    Reply

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