Unity

I’m still waiting to hear what happened at last night’s Olympia Co-op meeting. Apparently, in order to facilitate an orderly program the Co-op leadership decided to bring in a professional dispute-resolution professional to moderate the event, and set out some pretty strict ground rules for how people were to behave.

No doubt this led to a much more civilized event than other’s I’ve seen, heard about or participated in (which is a good thing). But I can’t help thinking that this is the type of machinery you put in place when you want to get through an evening without people rushing at one another’s throats, not something you put in place to manage a group that is moving towards consensus.

At the very least, last night’s event simply confirmed the obvious: that the Olympia Co-op community is bitterly divided over this issue, to the point where passions have been inflamed. And, as testimony during the meeting verified, the staff was equally divided over this issue, to the point where it never came close to achieving consensus on the matter, despite the fact that boycotting Israel has been floating around the co-op for two years. And given that co-op’s boycott policies have staff consensus is the primary requirement for instigating a boycott, division among the staff and members is no small matter.

Which gets us to the question of just who is united on this subject? The board perhaps, although I am sensing in some of their more recent pronouncements that they are looking for a way to pull back from the brink. No doubt the boycott reflects their wishes and beliefs more than it does the staff and membership, but now that they have spent three weeks witnessing what their decision has wrought, they may be joining the many other organizational leaders who flirted with BDS in the past in trying to find a way to undo what they have done before more damage is caused.

It will be interesting to see whether professional moderation will be engaged to get to the next step in this process (which will no doubt involve examining the organization’s by-laws and policies to fix flaws in the system, and to decide whether the boycott should stand, given that it was the result of flawed policies).

So now we are left with the only group who are united by the Oly boycott: the BDS community. After all, they got what they wanted – an institution they can use to claim their accusations are coming out of the mouths of a 15,000-member organization, not a few dozen boycott and divestment champions. And if some (or even most) of those 15,000 are appalled at what is being said in their name, and if the co-op itself must suffer as a result of handing their reputation over to the BDSers, what do the boycotters care? You can’t make a political movement without breaking a few co-op eggs, apparently, so if members must suffer so that BDS can boast a victory, that’s a sacrifice they’re ready to force the community to make.

If you want a sense of why it is so important for BDS to claim a victory, even a trivial one like Olympia, check out this piece by BDS Generalisimo Omar Barghouti who is hanging the story of success for his whole campaign for world-wide boycott and divestment on the OlyCoop decision. Needless to say, I have a few humble words in response to his interpretation of events which can be found here.

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11 Responses to Unity

  1. Anonymous August 13, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    Can BDS succeed in America outside a 100 mile radius of Rachel Corries old stomping ground?
    That remains to be seen. The latest battle ground appears to be Portland oregon, where “New Seasons” , a beloved independent grocery store, is targetted by a petition drive to rid their shelves of the horrors of Israeli wheat free crackers….

  2. Berd August 13, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    I thought the forum was a great first step in allowing people to express themselves and their disagreements about the boycott decision.

    There's a lot to talk about, that's for sure, and a lot of room for improvement in terms of working toward mutual understanding, prosperity, and peace for all people.

    I really appreciated the words of one Jewish co-op community member who remarked that the boycott is really actually good not only for Palestinians, but for Jewish people as well. Because the actions of the state of Israel are harmful, not only to Palestinians, but to Jews (and all people) as well.

    Also, I support a thorough and comprehensive expansion of the boycott effort – to include, wherever possible, all states and companies that have committed crimes against peace and/or crimes against humanity.

    Such a policy must call on internationals to participate in boycott, divestment, and sanctions against the USA, which I believe is the world's greatest perpetrator of oppression, injustice, and other violence.

    Berd

  3. Berd August 13, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    correction: that is “Jewish member of the co-op community”

  4. Berd August 13, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    One opponent of the boycott decision also called for an expansion to the boycott policy, to include other Middle East states that have committed human rights abuses (like Lebanon and Syria—which I am not familiar with the details.)

    This opponent also called for boycott of Hamas, due to its harmful behavior toward not only Israel, but toward Palestinian civil society as well.

    I think this is important to consider, although the it is my opinion that Hamas is not the aggressor in this situation, and whether or not that is the fact in this situation must be honestly considered and understood by all parties to this conflict.

  5. Anonymous August 14, 2010 at 2:23 am #

    I have nothing to say except thanks. You're doing great work here.

  6. Jon August 14, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Does anyone else get the impression that if the Olympia Board rescinds the boycott, those honey-tongued, high-minded supporters of the original boycott vote would turn into snarling hellhounds and make the organization's life even more miserable than they've already done?

    After all, the whole dynamic of BDS is to blame Israel and its supporters for the BDSers own faults (such as sloppy accusations of racism), just as Israel's foes accuse it of their own crimes(such as bigotry, violence and indifference to human rights). Given that the BDS crew has accused its critics of making violent threats, one wonders what options they secretly harbor as their Plan B if the board decides to get ultimately out of the boycott business.

  7. Berd August 14, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    So Jon, are you not willing to accept at face value the fact that members of the co-op board and the bds organizing group have received threats?

  8. Anonymous August 15, 2010 at 1:02 am #

    “Given that the BDS crew has accused its critics of making violent threats….”

    Yep. Generally the threat is “Boycott Israel and we won't shop here any more”

    (Are you quaking in your birkenstocks yet, Berd?)

    On the other hand, here in occupied Northern California, not only has Israeli food been vandalized (helpfully documented by the vandals, themselves), but kosher food as well. And our local Trader Joes, which refused to bow to political pressure had its garbage can set on fire, by, er “peace activists”

  9. Berd August 15, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    Actually, re: the above anonymous commenter, the threats have consisted of death and other malice, repeated for some supporters of the boycott, dozens upon dozens of times.

  10. Anonymous August 15, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    Any activists bodies found at the bottom of elevator shafts ? Just wondering.

    http://cinnamonstillwell.blogspot.com/2008/12/rip-dan-kliman.html

  11. Jon August 18, 2010 at 9:19 pm #

    Hi Berd – I’ve been out of the Olympia loop (as well as low on wireless) for a while, so apologies for not getting back to you sooner.

    So are you saying that BDS advocates have been accused of making threatening phone calls to the co-op? While I know we’re on different sides of this issue, I’m happy to give you some advice if that’s the case.

    It’s many a time I’ve seen groups involved with this issue accuse one another of being responsible for violent threats and other abuses in order to throw their political adversaries on the defensive. If someone is accusing the boycotters of making threatening phone calls, I recommend that you require your accusers to prove that these threats were genuine and did not simply originate from a deranged individual making crank phone calls or an agent provocateur from the other side. Don’t take it at face value that you are responsible simply because someone received a nasty phone call from an unidentified individual.

    As a final note, whenever I attend any publically advertised Israel-related event here in Boston, I’m required to step through a metal detector. Until your events require similar security measures, presume you are not under any major threat.

    You’re welcome,

    Jon

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