And so it begins (or, should I say, continues).
Adding to the long list of food co-ops that have rejected a boycott of Israeli goods (Davis, Seattle, etc.), the Port Townsend Food Co-op last night rejected a boycott proposal with the board voting 4-2 to give BDS the heave ho.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, thought the BDSniks who had managed to achieve a boycott win at Olympia Washington just a few months ago. Yes, boycotts had faced defeat after defeat at co-ops up until the point where they finally scored a win at Olympia. But according to BDS logic, one victory is all that is needed to create a wave of comparable activity at similar organizations across the nation and around the globe.
So why did the boycott stall just two hours up the road from Olympia at Port Townsend?
Could it be that co-op communities such as Davis, Seattle, Port Townsend (not to mention other co-ops that look likely to kick BDS down the stairs such as Sacramento) are full of reactionary Tea Partiers while only Olympia represents true enlightenment? The argument that the Olympia co-op community is unique with regard to the mix of political opinion was difficult sell in the best of circumstances. And claims of uniqueness also make it more difficult to sell yourself as a model for other communities.
I’ve noted before that BDS’s few successes this millennium seem to be concentrated within a ten mile radius of Rachel Corrie’s house, but I think there is a more obvious answer to the question of why a boycott passed in Olympia and is failing everywhere else.
Quite simply, at Davis and Seattle and Port Townsend and all of the other communities where BDS has been rejected, the public was allowed into the conversation and the decision-making process. Boycott and divestment activities never do well when exposed to sunlight, and the fact remains that the only thing unique about Olympia (the one co-op where a boycott was initiated) is that they managed to get the boycott passed behind the backs of the membership. And no matter how much the Olympia board tries to keep its head down and hope the whole controversy blows over them, the fact remains that with every rejection of boycott by Port Townsend and others, they are exposed as being in conflict not just with their own members but with the members and very principles of the entire co-op movement.
I’m going to make one more prediction (other than the one that says BDS will continue to fail as co-ops turn to Davis and Port Townsend for inspiration, rather than Olympia). One of the ironic consequences of BDS is that when a wave of divestment or boycott activity sweeps through a community, it leaves behind a newly minted group of pro-Israel activists and informs an institution of aspects of the Jewish state they may not have been familiar with previously.
When divestment hit Somerville, MA six years ago it failed spectacularly, but not before introducing the city’s mayor to a part of the world he’d not thought much about previously. Soon after the divestment debate was over, that Mayor traveled to Israel to take part in a program for municipal leaders that he would never have heard of had BDS not come to town. And since then, he’s used lessons he learned from rubbing elbows with his Israeli counterparts to improve municipal services in his corner of Massachusetts.
The punchline at the end of my wacky tale of Sydney and Omar riffed on how BDS activists actually introduce uninformed people of the variety of Israeli products, innovations, opportunities and experiences that might have remained unknown if a divestment or boycott project had not come to town. And so I predict a boom in opportunities for Israeli products in a new market where they have recently gotten high levels of attention: food cooperatives.
Anyway, we generally don’t get our good news out as quickly as do our opponents, but here’s hoping: spread the word! BDS loses again!