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Boycott measure goes down, 60-40, at Park Slope Food Co-op

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Members of the Park Slope Food Co-op turned out in droves last night to hear arguments for and against a resolution to have a referendum of all members on boycotting Israeli products. The pro-boycott measure lost, 1005 to 635. Here is the New York Times account.

Here’s a statement from Park Slope Food Coop members for BDS:

We are saddened to announce that the Park Slope Food Co-op will not at this time be holding a membership-wide referendum on whether to join the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel’s illegal occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands and other violations of Palestinian rights.

Many people came out last night and spoke with bravery and conviction about the importance of continuing this conversation through the process of a referendum. Our supporters have stood strong for months now in the face of both verbal and physical assaults outside the co-op, misinformation in the co-op publication the Gazette, a number of media reports downplaying the strength of our movement and misrepresenting our goals and motivations, and a slanderous and outrageous verbal attack from Mayor Bloomberg in the final hours before the vote.

Although we finished with a very significant level of support, almost 40%, the results of the vote show that there remains much work to do in our efforts to educate co-op members on the importance of BDS. Despite our loss tonight, we have succeeded in one of our goals: BDS has entered the consciousness of thousands of co-op members and others who had never heard the term before.

We remain committed to getting the facts out about the struggle for peace and justice for Palestinians, and the important role the nonviolent BDS movement has to play in that struggle.

Here’s a statement from boycott leader Omar Barghouti:

Chapeau to supporters of Palestinian rights in New York, particularly those who are members of the Park Slope Co-op, for their heroic efforts and principled position. 
While our partners in NY lost the vote — for now — one cannot but be very impressed with the actual result: 40% with us and 60% against us, that is a 2:3 ratio. If this is an indicator of support for BDS in Park Slope, an affluent Jewish neighborhood of NY, as everyone likes to remind us, then the movement is doing quite well. No wonder soft Zionists, like Peter Beinart, are terrified!
Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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44 Responses

  1. Dan Crowther on March 28, 2012, 9:39 am

    I think thats pretty significant – 40% on board in the face of a overwhelming opposition using all its resources to drown out the BDS’ers? Id say that’s a step in the right direction – hopefully this can serve as a moral affirmation to people who have remained silent.

    Doesnt Omar Barghouti go to Tel Avi University?

    • Western Sky on March 28, 2012, 10:12 am

      I don’t really agree much with the pulse of this site, but while it might get downplayed, 40% is still a significant show of support in New York City.

      The tone of the discussion (across the country) is changing.

  2. Les on March 28, 2012, 9:51 am

    More than 50% support the boycott! That is a huge step forward and those who made the effort deserve our thanks for making so many more people aware of the continuing ethnic cleansing supported by our dollars. We thank you for your great work.

    • Fredblogs on March 28, 2012, 1:08 pm

      Uh, no. 40% is less than 50%. Math is fun.

      • Les on March 29, 2012, 9:51 am

        I apologize for my fuzzy math.

  3. annie on March 28, 2012, 10:55 am

    i still think 40% is impressive for brooklyn. naturally i am disappointed. could someone explain to me who got to vote last night and who didn’t? the board can’t be over 1600 people. which members of the membership were allowed to vote?

    • Bumblebye on March 28, 2012, 11:22 am

      This blog is by a member who attended the meeting, and is quite informative:
      It was a membership vote, and 1600 members turned out to do so.
      (Edit: Grauni looks a bit like MW today, with another piece on Beinart, plus a great piece on the walls and fences Israel’s surrounding itself with!)

      • dahoit on March 28, 2012, 12:18 pm

        The Guardian is probably realizing suicide is not painless.(To their bottom line-would that all our media came to that conclusion)

      • annie on March 29, 2012, 2:41 am

        thanks bumble

  4. LanceThruster on March 28, 2012, 11:33 am

    Congrats on the substantial showing and thanks for your persistence.

  5. Izik on March 28, 2012, 11:59 am

    Doesn’t Omar Barghouti attend Tel-Aviv university?
    How does that compute with his call for boycotting Israeli universities?

    • Woody Tanaka on March 28, 2012, 12:30 pm

      Every Palestinian should do everything in his or her power to extract everything he or she can from the Jewish infrastructure built on the back of the Nakba, as the smallest down payment of the compensation owed to them by the invaders.
      If this education will help smash the Israeli state or end the occupation, then the minor benefit one tuition gives to the enemy is worthwhile in the long run.

      • Izik on March 28, 2012, 2:03 pm

        Still, isn’t that at odds with the call to boycott TAU?

      • Woody Tanaka on March 28, 2012, 2:15 pm

        Not at all. The call is for external entities and people to boycott Israel in order to pressure it to change its evil ways. Whether he obtains an education or not is of negligible concern; one can’t begrudge the oppressed people in the belly of the beast having to do what they can to advance as best they can. It is up to us on the outside to bring the pressure to bear on the enemy.

      • Izik on March 28, 2012, 3:03 pm

        The “oppressed” Barghouti is living in Ramallah. He could have chosen to study at Beir-Zeit university in Ramallah. Instead, he chose to study in Tel-Aviv. This doesn’t add up.
        Perhaps he is just a hypocritical opportunist?

      • Woody Tanaka on March 28, 2012, 5:46 pm

        It’s Birzeit.

        And he should be able to attend any school anywhere in Palestine, be it in the Jaffa area, Ramallah, al-Quds, Gaza, anywhere. And all Palestinians would be if there wasn’t a foreign cancer of Zionism infecting the land.

        If he believes that he will get a better education at TAU, then he should get whatever would be best for him, and perhaps he can cut out that cancer, for the betterment of all Palestinians of all religions and ethnicities.

        “Perhaps he is just a hypocritical opportunist?” Nope. It’s no different than back in the day when there were quotas on Jews in the Ivy League. Would one have been a “hypocritical opportunist” to lead marches against those quotas while still attending one of those schools? Only an idiot would think so.

      • ToivoS on March 28, 2012, 7:26 pm

        He could have chosen to study at Beir-Zeit university in Ramallah. Instead, he chose to study in Tel-Aviv. This doesn’t add up.

        Institutions for Jews receive more government support that those for Palestinians. Barghouti is acting completely rationally taking advantages of a wealthier education.

        I was in a similar position. As the son of an active communist I raised to distrust Capitalist institutions. When I received a fellowship to attend Harvard, I accepted it. Opportunistic, probably but definitely not hypocrisy.

      • adele on March 28, 2012, 11:35 pm

        Something just doesn’t quite add up. How can the person whose land is being occupied and human rights denied be in turn criticized for being an opportunist for going to a university run by the occupier?

      • Izik on March 29, 2012, 6:57 am

        ‘Would one have been a “hypocritical opportunist” to lead marches against those quotas while still attending one of those schools? Only an idiot would think so.’

        A very poor comparison. He’s not leading a campaign for the integration of Palestinians in Israeli universities. He’s trying to get TAU boycotted and eventually destroy it. You’d have to be a pretty amoral person to try and hold the stick at both ends like he’s doing.

      • Woody Tanaka on March 30, 2012, 8:09 am

        “A very poor comparison. He’s not leading a campaign for the integration of Palestinians in Israeli universities.”

        No, he’s doing something far, far more noble; he’s seeking to free his people being held hostage in their own land by a horde dedicated to the demonic ideology of Zionism.

        “He’s trying to get TAU boycotted and eventually destroy it.”

        No, he’s trying to get TAU boycotted to free his people. Only an unabashed bigot (which, I understand, would include most every zionist) could consider freeing a people as “destroying” an institution.

        “You’d have to be a pretty amoral person to try and hold the stick at both ends like he’s doing.”

        Nonsense. You would have to be a very immoral person to complain about manner in which someone chooses to better himself while freeing his people from the chains that bind them, when you are one of those guilty of that bondage.

  6. pabelmont on March 28, 2012, 12:21 pm

    16,000 members and 1,600 people turned up. I guess these were mostly the enthusiasts. Means 15,000 don’t-cares. So, the pro-BDS was 40% of 10% of the total, and the anti-BDS was 60% of 10%.

    Hard to know what to make of it. Suggests Co-op policy is usually set by VERY FEW members.

  7. Boycott Israel on Campus on March 28, 2012, 12:50 pm

    Finkelstein actually threw his weight against BDS at the Co-op meeting last night:


    ” ‘What is BDS?’ asked one member, Norman Finkelstein, last night. ‘I’m not going to be in a cult again.’ (BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, an international movement against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.) Finklestein and others would learn a lot about BDS during the three hour meeting…”

    This frail BDS movement, carefully nurtured, has to withstand a lot of enemies, now including Finkelstein. What a shameful place in history awaits him. He contributed some fine books to the movement. Now he’s doing his best to shoot it dead.

    • Peter H on March 28, 2012, 4:07 pm

      Could be a different Norman Finkelstein than the one you’re thinking of….I’m pretty sure he knows what BDS is.

      • jewishgoyim on March 28, 2012, 11:28 pm

        I’m afraid Norman Finkelstein has already made clear he’s against BDS so it is very likely to be him. Ranting about “Holocaust Industry” and what have you all the time but when it comes to real action, there’s nobody there. Very puzzling.

      • iamuglow on March 29, 2012, 1:26 pm

        I’d like to know if it is the “Norman Finkelstein”. He lives in Coney Island Brooklyn. Park Slope, Brooklyn is far away enough way that I can’t see him shopping there. The ‘cult’ bit is his language though….is he going from not being comfortable with BDS to going out of his way to speak out against it?

        I’m amazed if the man who said ‘Israel needs a good knock of the head’ from Hizbolla or the ‘save your crocidile tears, if you had any heart you’d be crying for the Palestenians’ is now saying ‘hold up now, lets not rush and take direct action against Israel.’

    • on March 28, 2012, 5:09 pm

      Of course BDS isn’t it a cult–if it were he’s be denounced and mocked by his former friends on Mondoweiss. Instead, they are renaming their positions and giving Finkelstein the respect he deserves.

      • Boycott Israel on Campus on March 28, 2012, 5:48 pm

        To Terryscott:

        Finkelstein deserves credit for the books and other work he’s done. He also deserves blame for trying to shoot down the only chance for mass actions in the United States against Israel– that movement bears the timid name of “BDS”.

        When you hear someone say “BDS”, they are marking themselves as fearful to just say “Boycott Israel”. The acronym of “BDS” means nothing to the general public so it’s like a camouflage for frightened activists.

        BDS was the same movement (but much more self-assured) in 1967, ’77, and ’87 against Apartheid South Africa. It felt free to bluntly say “Boycott South Africa”. Nice and clear.

        BDS against Israel is much more timid and frail, because there is so little public defiance against the Israeli state. No one feels safe expressing that defiance — except (thank goodness) last night at the Park Slope Co-op.

        Too bad Finkelstein can’t give these fearful BDS-ers some courage. Instead he attacks them for any kind of boycott action against Israel. What does he want them to do? Read his blog and weep quietly for Palestine?

        Boycott Israel and scold Finkelstein.

      • Djinn on April 7, 2012, 2:13 am

        Actually it’s called BDS because they people who called for it, the people being oppressed, call it that. It makes perfect sense to go beyond the simple name “boycott” because it much of the world there are few Israeli products on the shelves. The sanctions & divestment parts are actually far more important in most communities than the personal consumer choices. For someone so constantly critical of other activists choices I’m yet to see you post anything suggesting what YOU have been able to achieve.

    • ParkSlopeSingleGuy on March 31, 2012, 12:15 pm

      No, it was someone IMPERSONATING Norman Finkelstien. He got up there and spouted all this garbage about how he’s against BDS and pretended to be Finkelstein! Why aren’t people organizing about this?

      • mudder on April 1, 2012, 2:34 pm

        Thank you ParkSlopeSingleGuy for clearing that up. My suspicions were correct. And shame on the Gothamist for misleading reporting.

      • ParkSlopeSingleGuy on April 1, 2012, 7:11 pm

        What should we do about it?

  8. Fredblogs on March 28, 2012, 1:06 pm

    ROFL. I love it, you lose by 20% points, a landslide in any political context and you think it’s a victory. No wonder the Palestinians have refused to accept the existence of Israel for 64 years, they think they’re winning.

    • Peter H on March 28, 2012, 4:15 pm

      Actually, 40% of the vote in a heavily Jewish neighborhood for something as controversial as BDS *is* impressive.

    • Woody Tanaka on March 28, 2012, 5:35 pm

      “No wonder the Palestinians have refused to accept the existence of Israel for 64 years, they think they’re winning.”

      Wow, what an insanely bigoted thing to say. And stupid, too. Losing by 20% in New York city on an issue like this is a big deal. You’re just too stupid, brainwashed or ignorant to understand.

  9. upsidedownism on March 28, 2012, 3:36 pm

    bds would have carried if only about 200 or so people had voted differently. amazing result in a place like brooklyn; for anyone who cares about justice for palestinians, one can only be hopeful.

    Can somebody explain what park slope would have done if that had happened?

  10. Justice Please on March 28, 2012, 6:05 pm

    “the Park Slope Food Co-op will not at this time be holding a membership-wide referendum”

    I thought Americans believed in democracy?

    Well done BDS, at least you forced a debate. Maybe next time you have the majority, would be an awesome success!

  11. Pixel on March 28, 2012, 9:34 pm

    ” ‘Despite our loss tonight,… BDS has entered the consciousness of thousands of co-op members and others who had never heard the term before.’ “


    • iamuglow on March 29, 2012, 1:33 pm

      It was covered on news sites…Gawker, Gothamist and the Daily Show. It was in the NY Times, the Daily News, etc. BDS has entered the consciousness of thousands at least. Millions I would think.

  12. yourstruly on March 28, 2012, 10:23 pm

    considering all the money and politicians that these israel firsters threw into the campaign, this 40% vote in nyc in favor of a boycott referendum has to be an astounding victory for justice in palestine. indeed, it suggests that at least at the local level, a referendum calling on our government to end its 3 billion a year giveaway to the zionist entity would receive the support of a high percentage of voters. the significance of such referendum isn’t so much that they pass but that the size of both the turnout and the percentage of voters in favor of them be large enough to prove that there’s a formidable opposition to the status quo vis a vis the u.s. special relationship with israel. once the public realizes this, there goes the israel lobby’s hold on congress and no more the tail wagging the dog. nice going new yorkers, you made it happen!

    • jewishgoyim on March 28, 2012, 11:52 pm

      “considering all the money and politicians that these israel firsters threw into the campaign,”

      Are our foes above manipulating the votes? I mean I certainly have doubts about the diebold voting machines so I’m not really sure why I should take any vote in an obscure NY coop at face value. Do we know about that?

      Note: About diebold electoral machines controversy, you probably think that it is an old, warmed up story. Everybody thought they could be hacked after Bush got reelected and the exit-polls on election day went for Kerry (never seen any such discrepancy between estimates and results on election day in France – never – but I guess it’s French genius: our pollsters must be way superior!). Conventional wisdom had it that since a half-black Democratic President got elected in 2008, it was definite proof that the electoral process in the US was sound. And I went along with everybody else. Now that we can look back a few years, we can be sure that the oligarchy (or whatever you call it) could not have made a better move than put Obama in charge to put a human face on Bushism and lock down the country once and for all in the post 9/11 neo-fascist mindset.

      So I believed Obama proved the soundness of the electoral process without a doubt until I watched the Russian ambassador to the US on Charlie Rose a few weeks ago (last third of the interview). Charlie was his usual “impeccable” self lecturing the Ambassador about election processes and democracy and the ambassador lost it somewhat and replied to the discomfited Charlie: “And do we ask questions about your voting machines?”.

      Now if the Russian ambassador to the US brings that about if you push his hot buttons, I truly wonder what the Russians do know that we, Western opions, don’t…

  13. yourstruly on March 29, 2012, 8:29 am

    the nyc vote brings back memories of ballot measures put to the voters in 1988 in two bay are cities, san francisco (proposition w) and berkeley (measure j). prop w called for voters to approve a policy favoring a palestinian state on the west bank and gaza, measure j was for establishing a sister city relationship with gaza’s jabaliya refugee camp. early in the campaign a poll sponsored by the s.f. jewish community council found that by a 2:1 ratio san franciscans favored prop w. fearful of its passing israel’s supporters mounted a campaign to defeat it that included heavy advertising and bringing in well known local, state and national figures to speak in opposition, and, needless to say, msm opposed both measures. considering the tremendous imbalance in resources available to the two sides, it’s not surprising, then, that both measures were defeated. still, almost a third (32%) of voters supported prop w and 29% supported measure j. not quite as impressive as yesterday’s park slope co-op showing, but dispelling the notion (even 24 years ago) that there’s only a few disgruntled leftists who favor a more balanced u.s.-israel relationship.

    about the same time as the bay area voting occurred there were related measures put before new england voters, with results similar to those in s.f. & berkeley. now we’ve an election (albeit, not a general election but at a co-op) where the vote has crept up to 40%, which raises the question as to how the public would vote on a referendum that called for the u.s. government to stop giving 3 billion smackeroos to israel every year?

  14. Mayhem on March 29, 2012, 9:45 am

    Hurray for democracy!
    Meanwhile here in the antipodes of Australia the BDS movement is totally dependent on the extremist left wing factions for its succor. That means BDS has virtually died off here as there is only a small fringe element still wasting their time pursuing it.

    • Djinn on April 7, 2012, 2:05 am

      What a total steaming pile of horseshit. The BDS movement in Australia is bigger than it has ever been. The more visible protests have involved left groups and they are the ones the media reports, it has not ever been centered on those visible protests however. Why would major supermarkets risk trades practices fines by repeatedly mislabelling Israeli produce if they figured no-one cared that it was really from Israel? My local has no problem labeling fruit from the Philipines, Mexico etc but resolutely refuses to label Israeli fruit until forced to do so by complaints after which that produce disappeared from the floor? The loud BDS activists are left wing student groups, the quiet ones who are actually succeeding on getting Apartheid products off the shelves are mostly boring middle aged suburban folk who don’t attract media attention.

      As for hurray for democracy – they voted AGAINST a VOTE. You need a dictionary.

  15. ParkSlopeSingleGuy on March 31, 2012, 12:17 pm

    At the vote, someone got up and pretended to Norman Finkelstein, and the board and the chair committee did nothing about it! Obviously a bunch of ditto-heads for the Zionist Lobby. I can’t believe they let him get away with it!

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