Censorship in Brooklyn: Food Coop bars ‘any events related to BDS or Israel’ from meeting room

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on 39 Comments

This is disturbing. The Park Slope Food Coop staff is trying to shut down discussion of the Israel/Palestine issue with a strict censorship policy of discussions in its members’ meeting room on the subjects of Israel or BDS, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

It’s bad enough that the Brooklyn institution’s board is opposing boycott; though it is reflecting the will of members on that point, circa 2012 anyway. But the board of the coop is so afraid that the issue is gathering steam among progressives that it has shut down another vote on boycotting SodaStream for a year now; and two days ago officials at the coop issued this crazy new fiat against members using the meeting room to even talk about Israel and Palestine.

Subject: Regarding events in the meeting room

Tuesday, April 26

Dear Naomi,

Because of recent disputes about the content and purpose of events in the meeting room, the General Coordinators, in our capacity of chief administrators of the Coop, have decided to stop scheduling any events related to SodaStream, BDS, Israel or boycotts related to these subjects in the meeting room. The event scheduled for Sunday, May 1, will be the final event regarding these subjects.

Please share this information with any members who need to know.

Ann Herpel on behalf of the General Coordinators

The person who shared this with me, Sarah Wellington, says the move is a highhanded effort by the Coop coordinators, who are supposed to represent the will of a community of 16,000 members, to impose views on the membership. “In order to impose something like banning a subject matter, the plan would have to be presented to the membership at a general meeting, which occurs monthly, and this was not done, the general coordinators made this decision themselves,” Wellington explained. That makes it an abuse of power.

And meantime, members will be able to have meetings at the Coop on any other $%*& subject they please, from the politics of sushi fishing to how to have a flat tummy to movie night (including films about the European Jewish experience) to the modern funeral to the secrets of a good posture.

Just no talkin about Palestine!

We have tracked events regarding Israel/Palestine at the Park Slope Food Coop because it’s a leading progressive institution in a heavily-Jewish neighborhood. In 2012, a monthly general meeting voted by a sizeable margin not to turn the issue of the boycott of Israeli goods over to a membership-wide referendum, but the issue has not gone away and a year ago the pro-boycott forces put on the agenda a proposal to boycott SodaStream products because they were made in the occupied West Bank. Well, that agenda item has languished for a year now without any action by the board to hold a vote, citing one excuse or another; and meantime three months back pro-Israel forces got through a measure requiring a supermajority of 75 percent to pass a boycott. The Coop board is not just afraid of the divisiveness of the Palestine issue (bring it on, says any activist worth their seasalt) but of abandoning the Israeli government. Weird.

Wellington says that SodaStream proposal was so upsetting to the Coop last April that some members stormed the stage at the general meeting to protest it; and tried to shout down the proposers. And since then the “general coordinators,” of whom Herpel is one, have delayed any action.

“This is NOT what democracy looks like,” Wellington says of the new rule. If you look up the meeting workshops rules, within certain very reasonable provisions, anyone can have a meeting.

As for that last meeting at the Coop on Sunday: it’s entitled, “Displacement of Bedouin Palestinians in Israel: What is Sodastream’s role?” May 1st, international labor day, at noon at the Park Slope Food Coop.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has forced SodaStream to move their production facilities from the Occupied West Bank to the Northern Naqab (Negev) region. SodaStream says it’s an improvement to move its facilities from occupied territory to Israel-proper. But how much of a difference does it make? Coop members Naomi Brussel and Rebecca Manski will discuss the issues related to the international boycott of SodaStream’s water carbonation products.

Wellington says the new rule is not going to thwart organizers who demand that the Coop take a stand, true to the Coop’s mission statement, “…to avoid products that depend on the exploitation of others.” She adds, “Free speech, the democratic process and cooperative behavior are at grave risk at the Park Slope Food Coop.”

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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39 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    April 29, 2016, 2:05 pm

    wow, just wow.

    • just
      April 29, 2016, 2:51 pm

      ditto that!

      “Wellington says the new rule is not going to thwart organizers who demand that the Coop take a stand, true to the Coop’s mission statement, “…to avoid products that depend on the exploitation of others.” She adds, “Free speech, the democratic process and cooperative behavior are at grave risk at the Park Slope Food Coop.” ”

      Good luck to Sarah and the other organizers who stand up and fight this abomination!!!

    • Rooster
      April 30, 2016, 10:56 am

      This is what a backfire looks like.

  2. lysias
    April 29, 2016, 5:16 pm

    What about holding a meeting on establishing a new co-op? That wouldn’t be forbidden under this rule. And it might make the management think again.

  3. hophmi
    April 29, 2016, 5:51 pm

    Go ahead, offer every reason but the real one – people are tired of BDS activists selfishly sowing division in their institutions. They’re tired of the in-your-face activism, they’re tired of the nastiness, and they’re tired of the anti-Semitism inherent in the movement. They’re just not that into you.

    • eljay
      April 29, 2016, 10:03 pm

      || hophmi: Go ahead, offer every reason but the real one – people are tired of BDS activists selfishly sowing division in their institutions. They’re tired of the in-your-face activism, they’re tired of the nastiness, and they’re tired of the anti-Semitism inherent in the movement. … ||

      Go ahead, offer every reason but the real one – Palestinians are tired of Zio-supremacists selfishly terrorizing, stealing, colonizing, destroying and killing. They’re tired of the in-your-face oppression, they’re tired of the (war) crimes and they’re tired of the supremacist arrogance inherent in the whole “Jewish State” project.

    • dont drink the water
      April 30, 2016, 8:45 am

      That’s your takeaway from this article? hahaha

      • hophmi
        April 30, 2016, 2:04 pm

        Without question. The Park Slope Coop sells food. It’s not there for extreme partisans to drive everybody crazy by exporting the politics of the Middle East into Brooklyn. People are really, really tired of these folks. They’re nasty.

      • talknic
        April 30, 2016, 10:48 pm

        @ hophmi April 30, 2016, 2:04 pm

        ” The Park Slope Coop sells food. It’s not there for extreme partisans to drive everybody crazy by exporting the politics of the Middle East into Brooklyn”

        Uh huh. Let’s look at past discussions that’ve been held there … OK. You first

    • Rooster
      April 30, 2016, 10:59 am

      Riiiiiiiight, hophmi.

      I think the sodastream your drinking has been spiked with an awful lot of settlement whine… i mean WINE.

    • lonely rico
      April 30, 2016, 7:54 pm

      >hofmee

      people are tired of BDS activists selfishly sowing division in their institutions

      I’m not tired of BDS activists.
      I’m THRILLED that people in Brooklyn, NY,
      in Montréal,
      around the world,
      are resisting the cruel dispossession of the Palestinians,

      not because they are acting selfishly,
      AU CONTRAIRE,

      because they believe justice demands them to act thusly.

      I am energized by their resistance to ugly zionist criminality.

  4. JustJessetr
    April 29, 2016, 7:08 pm

    Philip,

    The only thing factual in your article is the letter. Your use of terminology alone makes you stand out as singularly unaware of how things actually work there.

    Sorry, but that’s the truth.

    • Rooster
      April 30, 2016, 11:02 am

      So in writing policy that members of the co-op may discuss ANYTHING AT ALL except the occupation/BDS, you contend this is NOT an example of Zionist exceptionalism?

      And you want to be taken seriously?

      • JustJessetr
        April 30, 2016, 2:09 pm

        Huh? I didn’t contend anything! Stop pulling things out of the air. And stop disguising your accusations with question marks.

  5. dx
    April 29, 2016, 9:32 pm

    Starting a new co-op sounds like a good idea. I’m sure there’s some other place that could be used to hold a meeting if needed. If folks don’t feel good about being part of a group like this, they could leave. Or “boycott” it…

    • JustJessetr
      April 29, 2016, 11:15 pm

      Love the idea! Our coop isn’t good enough for them. They should start their own. I’ll contribute a dollar as seed money.

      • Mooser
        April 30, 2016, 11:48 am

        “Love the idea! Our coop isn’t good enough for them.”

        That’s right “our coop” doesn’t need you! It’s a private coop! The fewer people, the bigger it is.

  6. oneangrycomic
    April 30, 2016, 8:28 am

    How can anyone shop for food there while ZioThugs make you want to throw up in your mouth? George Orwell is turning in his grave!

    One can smell the fear and desperation as these Hasbara trolls try to suppress the truth about the terrorist government of Israel! Sorry, but you’ll never get that Genie back in the bottle.

    • JustJessetr
      April 30, 2016, 12:59 pm

      Good grief, it’s like you talk from a script. Your own version of Hasbara. The same old useless cliches that don’t change anything or help a single Palestinian.

      • Eric
        May 2, 2016, 9:50 am

        JustJesse, standing up for the powerless, even if reading from a script, may not help a single Palestinian but it does no harm. Unlike supporting Sodastream and Apartheid generally, which helps maintain the status quo indefinitely — which is a key objective of the Zionist movement.

  7. Boo
    April 30, 2016, 9:28 am

    “Because of recent disputes about the content and purpose of events in the meeting room, the General Coordinators, in our capacity of chief administrators of the Coop, have decided to stop scheduling any events related to … Israel … in the meeting room.”

    By adding Israel as one member of a comma-enumerated list, the Coordinators may have hoist themselves on the petard of Unintended Consequences.

    They have willy-nilly shut the meeting room door on any event having anything to do with Israel. No discussion of Israel, in a Brooklyn meeting room! It’s as plain as day, and words DO have meaning.

  8. mls31286
    April 30, 2016, 9:54 am

    You all are hilarious. You all want to censor and stifle Israeli free speech but when the COOP boycotts those who support BDS it’s wrong. Are you all so self-righteous that your way is the only way? You all get to decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t.

    How many pro-Palestinian speakers have been yelled over, heckled and silenced on college campus’? How many Israeli?

    Hypocrites. All of you.

    • ritzl
      April 30, 2016, 10:22 am

      Where do you see “Israeli free speech” being stifled?

      Does not buying Israeli products stifle free speech by anyone, anywhere, ever?

      Just curious. Barely.

    • Rooster
      April 30, 2016, 11:08 am

      No one’s blocking free speech. Just blocking econonic funding of indefinite arrest of twelve year old girls. And detention without charge of Palestinian journalists.

      Or Palestinians who make facebook posts.

      The reason more proIsraeli/zionist speakers are being heckled on college campuses is because of moral outrage against zionism>moral outrage against Palestinians as people become more informed.

      And once people see it, once they get it, they can’t unsee it.

    • amigo
      April 30, 2016, 2:27 pm

      “How many pro-Palestinian speakers have been yelled over, heckled and silenced “mis31286

      You could start here,

      http://mondoweiss.net/2015/10/facing-hecklers-gideon/

    • eljay
      April 30, 2016, 4:13 pm

      || mls31286: You all are hilarious. You all want to censor and stifle Israeli free speech but when the COOP boycotts those who support BDS it’s wrong. Are you all so self-righteous that your way is the only way? You all get to decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t.

      How many pro-Palestinian speakers have been yelled over, heckled and silenced on college campus’? How many Israeli?

      Hypocrites. All of you. ||

      Hilarious is a Zio-supremacist hypocrite complaining about injustice even as he continues staunchly to advocate, justify, excuse and defend Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine.

      Aggressor-victimhood is such a tough gig… :-(

  9. Naomi Brussel
    April 30, 2016, 11:10 am

    At the 43-year-old Park Slope Food Coop (PSFC), the past 7 years of the campaign for BDS have exposed issues of governance. The governing body of the 16,500-member organization is a monthly, town-hall style General Meeting (GM), normally attended by 300-500 members. The 6 member Board of Directors (5 elected, plus the paid Senior General Coordinator, who has a vote) is pledged to ratify decisions made by the GM. The Board was established to satisfy the NY State requirements for this type of not-for-profit entity.
    The PSFC is one of the largest cooperative worker-run enterprises in the US. It distributes high-quality food and other products with less than a 25% mark-up over wholesale costs. All members are required to work a two and 3/4 hour shift every 4 weeks.
    Except for shopping, most of the 16,500 members have little other involvement at the Coop. The staff is there every day, overseeing the operation. This structure shifts a lot of power to 50-60 paid staff, especially to the eight General Coordinators (GC’s) and in particular to the Senior General Coordinator, a founder of the coop, a voting Board member.
    He has become, de facto, the political spokesperson for the GC’s. He has, from early in the BDS campaign, acted as an ally of the Zionist faction of members. In March 2012 he exhorted members to vote against having a coop-wide referendum on boycotting Israeli products . (His slogan was “Vote Coop, Vote No”) He seems to see himself as protecting the Coop by suppressing conflict over BDS. In May 2015 after Zionists had disrupted the April 2015 GM presentation about boycotting SodaStream, he proposed an “emergency” referendum to ban any discussion of “Israel, Palestine, the Middle East, SodasStream, BDS-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or boycotts thereof”.
    In the present situation, the GC’s have said they cannot find a space that is affordable to . hold a vote about boycotting SodaStream, so that vote has been delayed for a year. The only way to vote for putting the SodaStream vote to a membership referendum would be through a GM vote and here again we are facing the argument that the GC’s cannot find an organization with affordable space, willing to rent to the Coop for a vote on this controversial issue.
    And now the GC’s have decided, as Sarah Wellington has described, that “because of recent disputes about the content and purpose of events in the meeting room” we cannot use that room for “any event related to Sodastream, BDS, Israel or boycotts related to these subjects.”
    PSFC members for BDS has asked for a meeting with the GC’s on this issue and we are waiting for it to be scheduled.

  10. a blah chick
    April 30, 2016, 1:14 pm

    I’m sure that Zach S is sincere in his concerns regarding academic freedom. I’m sure he condemns Israel’s periodic raids of Palestinian schools and the shooting of students.

  11. amigo
    April 30, 2016, 2:48 pm

    But everyone is welcome , (encouraged ) to talk about Syria/Iran/Iraq and any other hell hole.

    But not Israel.

  12. henspert
    April 30, 2016, 5:19 pm

    I just called co-op to voice my view on their direction.

  13. DaBakr
    April 30, 2016, 11:24 pm

    like the mosquitos in the room that bug everybody so much they get repellent and then the mosquitos cry foul. and you people complain about zionists whining.

  14. JLewisDickerson
    May 1, 2016, 5:13 pm

    RE: “Censorship in Brooklyn: Food Coop bars ‘any events related to BDS or Israel’ from meeting room “

    SO, what exactly is a “food coop”?
    It sounds kinda commie.
    Or, should I say Stalinist?
    Enquiring minds mimes want to know!™

    Food cooperative – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_cooperative

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