Just two days to go before people gather at Olympia Center in Washington to debate the Olympia Co-op’s boycott of Israeli products, the first forum open to the community since the boycott decision was made several weeks ago.
Since I can’t fly out to the other side of the country for the event (and would likely not get a seat if I did since members, understandably, will be seated first), here are a few thoughts and observations:
1. The Co-op’s board has sent out an update on the situation to members which appears on their blog here. This update acknowledges that while they may have followed the letter of the co-op’s rules in making their decision, that the process itself may be flawed and need revisiting.
Hearing details of how the decision came about, I think one could still make the case that the rules (which are flawed) were also not followed. But given all the other issues surrounding a decision hurtful to so many members being made with almost no one knowing what was happening, there continues to be a strong case that this was a poor and unethical choice, regardless of how it was reached.
2. The board’s description of how it reached its decision seems to have left out a critical detail, notably who attended the July 15 meeting where it was decided to go ahead with the boycott and only invite members to talk about it afterwards. I’ve gathered that, in addition to the board, 40-50 boycott supporters were in attendance (I’ve not heard whether they were Co-op members or not). Yet it was only decided to create a forum for others who might disagree with the boycott after the whole thing was a fait accompli.
3. The board update also notes that the wording of the boycott decision could be misinterpreted. But who wrote that language, the board or the boycotters? The Davis Co-op’s decision to reject a boycott that I’ve already mentioned several times made the important point that a boycott:
…demands that [the co-op’s] Board, which has a fiduciary duty to the [the co-op] and its members, subject its authority and discretion in the management and operation of the [co-op] to BDS, a third party entity that owes no such duty to the [co-op] or its members, but rather has, as its primary goal, the furtherance of a political movement with aims not necessarily consistent with the aims and goals of the Board or the [co-op]
Did the Oly Co-op fall into the trap that Davis avoided and hand “its authority and discretion” over to the BDSers? Who gets to decide when the requirements for ending the boycott have been met or which products are in and out; the board or the boycotters? These are question worth asking.
4. Last March, I wrote a checklist of what tends to happen whenever BDS enters a community. While the specifics of this list focused on campus divestment votes (like one taking place at the time at Berkeley), readers will recognize a startling similarity with what’s unfolding at Oly today.
I wish this was an example of a gift for prophecy that I could take to the track, but unfortunately, it simply illustrates that Olympia is now going through the same painful process other communities have suffered, with an eerie predictability you can almost set your watch to.