The Straight Coop

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!

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7 Responses to The Straight Coop

  1. Elizabeth September 22, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    I love your blog! It always have a way of cheering me up after a long day of seeing Israel bashed in the media and Jews being denied the right to self-determination.
    Keep up your uplifting and important work!

  2. JRo0079 September 23, 2010 at 1:44 am #

    I see you only have time for the one you loathe – but I was hoping to see a reply over on the Olympian.
    You make some interesting points above, but I would really like to discuss some of the finer points of our foreign policy and the recent history.
    Alas, I don't have any IM profiles other than Facebook – I know, totally lame ass mainstream dude – but nonetheless, we both, clearly, have our opinions and I would like to try to convince you that I'm right and you're wrong.
    SO! Why not?
    Also, what's the deal with the belief stated above, that Israel is “bashed” in the media, and that they are denied the “right to self-determination”?

  3. Johnny September 23, 2010 at 2:16 am #

    Excellent article! What Elizabeth said! Well done, and your blog rocks!

  4. Jon September 23, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    Thanks Elizabeth and Johnny – It's always nice to be reassured that people are getting something out of this site (especially after a week of trying to scare my readership away by subjecting them to my one-a-year crazed fantasies).

    JR – I confess to have lost track of our debate over at the Olympia forum (I too am a little lame, online-wise and tend to lose track of where I've been posting – an issue made even more challenging by the Olympian's wonky comment feature).

    Anyway, I have posted a reply to one of your more recent comments and while I'm look at your other one you may want to see the out-of-order 9/20 8:25 AM comment that was directed towards you (even if it ended up out of order).

    Regarding a longer-term debate on the ME generally, feel free to propose a public place with a stable dialoging system or, absent that, just write me directly. I can't promise immediate responses (since my BDS work has to take precedence over general online debate), but I will promise to engage with you in the same thoughtful manner you have used to challenge me.

  5. Anonymous September 28, 2010 at 7:16 am #

    Olympia was uniquely poised for the BDS b.s. because of Rachel Corrie. There are pictures of her in shop windows here celebrating her as a hero, and a massive pro-Palestine mural on a highly visible wall downtown. There was an attempt to make Rafah and Olympia sister cities.

    I've never felt entitled to an opinion on the incredibly complicated and sensitive issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I am 100% against this offensive, anti-semitic, disrespectful, anti-democratic move on the part of the co-op board. So, yeah…put me in the newly minted pro-Israel camp.

  6. JRo0079 October 7, 2010 at 5:40 am #

    Replied to your last post @ Olympian – finally! Sorry things have been quite busy, and I spent some time in the woods away from civilization.
    I would be happy to continue our discussion elsewhere, or here if you would prefer. Let's actually make progress, sometime!

  7. Jon October 7, 2010 at 4:09 pm #

    No problem on timing (if we continue, I think once-a-week exchanges is more than reasonable). If you don't mind, I don't think anyone is following the thread over at Olympian anymore and rather than hunt down your comment and reply to it there, would you mind just mailing it to me at the address noted at the top of this page? I don't think it will cause any harm to make our conversation a private one.

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