Port Townsend – What Went Right

I must admit to having been out of the loop while the whole Port Townsend Co-op story was unfolding (for reason I hope to let you in on shortly).

The fact that Port Townsend continues the trend of co-ops rejecting boycotts of Israeli goods (a trend interrupted only briefly by the strange goings-on at the Olympia Co-op) is still the big story. But I thought it worth pointing out the many ways things went right in this one part of Washington (at least to contrast it with everything that went wrong just 200 miles away at Olympia).

Before starting, it’s important to point out that no community should have to go through the type of ugly conflicts that always accompany a BDS battle. So while Port Townsend is a success story vis-à-vis how a community deals with boycott and divestment issues when they are forced upon them, far more successful are those institutions that know enough to stop BDS at the door before it can drag the Middle East conflict into their organization.

All that said, no one can make the claim that the Port Townsend Co-op didn’t involve its members (all its members – regardless of their political opinion) in the communication and decision-making process vis-à-vis the boycott. Notices went out, public meetings were held, and (most importantly) members were listened to before the decision to boycott or not boycott was made. (Contrast this with most BDS “victories” in which members of an organization only find out that a divestment or boycott decision was made after the fact.)

Secondly, as with Davis, the rationale that the decision-makers at the Port Townsend co-op used to reach their choice was fundamentally sound and compelling. Quite simply, they determined that making a politically-oriented boycott decision required them to have expertise in (not just strong feelings about) the political situation under consideration. And they needed to be prepared to open the door to any other political boycott request and give each the same level of consideration they gave an Israel boycott.

Taking these two points to their logical conclusion would require the co-op to dedicate significant time and effort to vetting their shelves based on a broad range of political matters over which he board would have to have strong understanding (both about the political issues themselves, and the opinions of the membership). In short, they based their decision not on their personal feelings over who was right and who was wrong in the Middle East, but what was in the best interest of the organization and its members.

Finally, it needs to be pointed out that opponents of the boycott did exemplary work. You only need to look at the Web page they set up to realize that smart people with both skill and passion put some real time into this win. And from what I can gather, these guys did everything right including (1) understanding the political dynamic of their community; (2) framing the debate (correctly) as being primarily about the co-op itself; and (3) communicating respectfully (while not mincing words) about the problems associated with dragging the Middle East conflict into the Port Townsend community.

So kudos to the folks at Port Townsend and may they (like their compatriots at Davis and elsewhere) be held out as shining examples of what to do when the BDS snake-oil wagon comes rolling into town.

3 thoughts on “Port Townsend – What Went Right”

  1. The Jerusalem Police say that no report of an infant death was made to them, so perhaps this is another example of Pallywood (http://www.takeapen.org/Takeapen/Templates/showpage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=84&FID=1934)? I certainly hope that, as in other similar cases, the infant is miraculously found to be alive in another day or two. In any case, tear gas was being used to disperse rioters in Issawayah. Or would you prefer the response that is used in Iran? Or perhaps you feel that one of the inalienable rights of the Palestinians is to be able to riot freely, and that any measures taken to stop them are thereby immoral?
    Maybe that needs to be added to the demands of the BDS movement– the “right to riot”.

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