My Visit to Olympia

Well I just flew in from Olympia Washington. And boy are my arms tired!

I’ve been waiting for a trip to Washington state to materialize, both to spend time at “Ground Zero” of the BDS “movement” (or “BDSM” as a friend recommended rebranding it) and to give me an opening to use the gag that starts this piece (which I’ve been told was originally composed in hieroglyphics in 4004 BC).

Sorry… where was I? Oh yes, Olympia!

For those of you tuning in late, Olympia Washington is the location of the first (and only) food co-op to boycott Israeli goods. Since that boycott was enacted (as usual, behind the backs of the membership and in contravention of the organization’s own rules), other co-ops that were asked to follow Olympia’s lead instead fled from the boycotter’s blandishments appalled at what BDS unleashed upon the Olympia community.

I had the chance to meet with members of that community, some of the citizens of Olympia and members (or former members) of the Co-op who have had to bear the brunt of anti-Israel bullying in the area for years. Olympia represents one of those few small pockets in the country where individuals and organizations holding anti-Israel sentiments have the majority (or at least the upper hand). And, as a result, there does not seem to be a single institution in town that remains un-infiltrated by “Israel-is-Always-Wrong” Palestinian Hasbarah.

Go to the movies and you’ll see signs for the Middle East film festival which, unsurprisingly, features a Middle East consisting entirely of Israeli gargoyles and Palestinian virgins. Take a walk down Main Street and see a lovely mural juxtaposing Israeli treatment of Arabs and European treatment of Native Americans (subtle). Go to Evergreen College and watch local BDSers collecting signatures from students who never have (and never will) set foot in the Olympia Food Co-op on two documents: the first, a free co-op membership sign-up form, the second a ballot allowing these freshly minted members to cast ballots for the pro-boycott slate running in recent Co-ops board-of-director elections.

That last sentence may need some further elaboration. You see, once the previous board rammed the boycott down the throat of the membership, some board members started to at least think about the mayhem they had unleashed. And so elections for a new board could have become a referendum on the boycott.

Except they didn’t. Partly because anti-boycott forces decided to maintain a non-confrontational stance (which included not endorsing any candidates solely because of their position on the boycott), and partly because pro-boycott forces decided to play it safe by simply changing the rules (again), making it possible for the first time for people (i.e., Evergreen students) to join the Co-op without physically visiting the store. With that rule change in place, it was a simple matter to recruit students to simultaneously become members then vote in a pro-boycott slate for an organization they will probably never visit.

Now I actually don’t have a big problem with people playing hardball, Chicago-style politics, even in a situation where only one side has chosen to treat a local controversy like a knife fight.

It’s just that ever since this board election took place, BDSers have been bellowing about how it represents the will of the membership (i.e., that this manipulated board vote somehow substitutes for the utter lack of community involvement in the original boycott decision). As stated earlier, if the boycotters are ready, willing and able to do whatever it takes to have their way, rules be damned and regardless of the impact on their community, so be it. So long as they don’t get annoyed when the rest of us roll our eyes when such manipulation is portrayed as some kind of honest referendum, much less the conscience of a community the BDSers continue to screw.

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28 Responses to My Visit to Olympia

  1. Anonymous February 13, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    So in other words, we should do absolutely nothing about Israel's use of white phosphorous against innocent civilians? Or perhaps, in your view of the world, the categories of “Palestinians” and “innocent civilians” are mutually exclusive?

  2. Jon February 13, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    Actually, you and your fellow Palestinian hasbrahists already provide an example of how one can respond to charges of human rights abuse (real or imagined). After all, the fact that more Palestinians today die at the hands of other Palestinians and that Palestininan-on-Palestinian, Arab-on-Palestinian and Arab-on-Arab violence dwarfs anything even you can dream of regarding human rights abuse and body count will never be acknowledged, never be mentioned (even to deny it) as you march on to your next S&M fantasy about white phosphorous Gaza attacks today and (who knows) atom bomb attacks on the West Bank tomorrow.

  3. David Evans February 13, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    Jon…Your disconnected answer to anonymous sounded like a Bevis rant. Congolese kill Congolese. What does that have to do with Israel's forces murdering Palestinians? Zionist propaganda tactic- Deflect the argument. Ain't working, Bevis.

    Palestinians have little means to provide food, let alone make nukes, because of the illegal occupation and Palistinians only want Israel to cease murdering them, depriving them of their properties and human rights as defined under international law and standards. World Court decisions, Geneva Convention guarantees and more than 100 UN resolutions have all declared Israels actions and war crimes illegal. Israel was born the aggressor state as it murdered thousands of innocent people, stormed across their lands, displacing more that 700,000 in 1948, and Israel has been expanding its undeclared borders ever since:
    http://www.ccmep.org/delegations/maps/palestine.html

    If Israel would cease this aggression, perhaps it wouldn't need to worry about enemy nukes.

  4. ourstreets February 13, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    That is a great picture of you outside of the Co-op! I love the Olympia Food Co-op.

    They have wonderful food (the produce is best you'll ever find) and their decision to boycott Israeli goods has strengthened my belief in the organization.

    If Israel chooses to continue to ignore the precepts of international law, UN resolutions, rulings by the International Court of Justice, and calls from the international community to end its occupation of Palestine, then non-violent resistance (such as BDS) is all we have to work toward a real change in the status quo.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful picture.

  5. ourstreets February 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    …also, Jon:

    I found it rather hard to make my way through your response to “anonymous”, but I think I've at least understood one point you are trying to make.

    Perhaps I can request that you simply answer this question directly. No diatribe, no rambling, no ducking or dodging…just simply answer this question:

    Do you deny that the Israeli army used white phosphorous in Gaza as part of “Operation Cast Lead”?

  6. Marla February 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    You might think I match the profile of the antagonist in your brief narrative of what's been going on inside my community. I am an Olympia co-op member, I support BDS and I'm a graduate of the Evergreen State College. However, I've been to Israel and Palestine, and I am still friends with community members who canceled their memberships because of BDS.

    These friends who oppose BDS know me as an individual that doesn't match your BDS-er profile, and they certainly don't think that I 'screwed' them or the community over (as you put it). And I don't think that they screwed me or the community over, either.

    The discord that has happened in my community and amongst my friends and neighbors has been upsetting for me. I have weighed the consequences of polarization vs. the perceived benefits of divestment. I've felt uneasy about carrying out this discussion with my friends in an atmosphere so heated that it attracts community outsiders to come in, become enraged and then leave.

    But this is STILL a painful process for many of us, and the concept behind 'Divest This' really doesn't do any justice to those who canceled their memberships because of their fears of anti-semitism within the community, or to those who see divestment as a way to protest and end human rights abuses. It seems like the last thing this blog cares about is community healing, and instead wants to keep the anger fresh. But none of us can gain insight into what's happened if we all stay angry. And as Olympians, we tend to like insight.

    The boycott itself had to do with our community struggle between local fears of what Israeli divest means in regards to a threat to Jewish peoples history, culture and religion: 'an attack on Israel is an attack on us.' For those who support the boycott, Israel and its sentiments are an afterthought to the crux of the issue, which is the ongoing siege of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank, and all of the human rights abuses that come along with it.

    So, none of us are trying to screw other people over, Jon. People who oppose the boycott don't oppose human rights in Palestine. People who support divestment don't oppose Jewishness, and see Israel as a modern state construction separate from Jewishness.

    The discussion has not ended even though the co-op members and the board have made their decision. I still want to hear what opponents have to say about their fears. I understand that their feelings have been activated as a result of the boycott, and that they must be addressed and respected in order to even begin moving on.

    So, the boycott is an ongoing process in this community, and we haven't all been left poised in hostile stances. Many of us are still friends. But thanks for stopping by.

  7. David Evans February 13, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    There is much confusion in America about the Israel/Palestine Conflict. A lot of this confusion is purposefully contrived:

    http://www.salem-news.com/articles/may082010/death-farmer.php

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6604775898578139565#

    http://www.ifamericansknew.org/

    http://media.causes.com/570790?p_id=87123826

  8. Anonymous February 14, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Marla :
    If I were to retain a single sentence of your-for once, articulate response from a BDS-er-this would be “People who support divestment don't oppose Jewishness, and see Israel as a modern state construction separate from Jewishness”.

    This single item cancels everything that could sound reasonable in your pronouncements.It reflects your (voluntary or not?) ignorance of Jewish history.

    As a proponent of a 2-peoples 2 states solution, a supporter of the Geneva initative, I will support actions that are inclusive of the Israeli people and to the vast majority of Diaspora Jews who not only have family in Israel but to whom Israel is family.

    But I will oppose not only as opponents, bt as enemies, all those who boycott anything coming from Israel on the sole count of being Israeli.

    Part of BDS consists in rebuking Israeli artists, academics and so on. This is quite a strange way to look for allies for securung peace.

    BDS is to me an aggravating factor of conflict. I see no point at healing the community instead of denouncing BDS.

  9. Anonymous February 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    BDS ” This is quite a strange way to look for allies for securung peace.”

    Amen, brother.

    The current BDS campaign involves ways to interfer with the performances of the Israel Philharmonic, including (isn't this charming?)

    Sunday, February 27 · 6:00pm – 7:30pm
    Davies Symphony Hall
    201 Van Ness Ave.
    San Francisco, CA

    Bring your pots and pans, kazoos, ukeleles, whistles, creativity and everything else needed for a cacaphonic protest
    The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has issued an appeal to BDS activists in the United States to boycott the US tour of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) in February and March 2011

    http://www.facebook.com/update_security_info.php?wizard=1#!/event.php?eid=127402817329886&index=1

    The BDS'ers are interfering with an orchestra (with Jewish, Christian and Muslim musicians, incidently) in the name of peace.
    Does this make any sense? Why would anyone want to be associated with these people?

  10. Marla February 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    To Anonymous: Perhaps I wasn't totally clear because I'm just reflecting here, and not arguing. My point was, many don't see Israel as a special place which is tied to a historical and cultural identity because and instead see it as a modern state like any other, and therefore don't perceive their actions as being anti-Semitic but anti-State. I understand that many Jewish Americans were raised with a deep connection to Israel, and don't merely see it as a state like any other for the reasons you mentioned. From my own experience, I've located this as a point of major misunderstanding and miscommunication between both groups. And I hope by locating this point and shedding light on it we can take a new approach to a renewed discussion.

  11. Anonymous February 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    To the First Anonymous: White phosphorus attacks FROM Gaza:

    http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=188206

    http://thelastamazon.blogspot.com/2009/01/hamas-white-phosphorus-rain-into-israel.html

    “Haim Yalin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, reacted sharply to the news of the phosphorus mortar attacks. Yalin said that he would send a letter on Thursday to the United Nations to alert it to the weapons being directed from Gaza against civilians.

    “These weapons have been banned by the Geneva Convention. They cause burns among victims, and they kill. This is an agricultural area – and we are now having to explain to farmers how to deal with burns from phosphorus shells,” he said.”

    What do you propose to do about THIS particular war crime?

  12. DrMike February 14, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    The question posed far above on this thread about the use (or non-use) of white phosphorus suggests that this is the reason for BDS activities.

    Nonsense. Either out of mendacity or out of ignorance, but utter nonsense either way.

    The BDS call itself clearly indicates that, regardless of any action Israel takes, it is the EXISTENCE of a Jewish state in the Jewish homeland that is the issue.
    If it was about the activities and policies of Israel, then common sense would indicate that those concerned about human rights attack the worst violators first. China's use of forced labor and the abrogation of human rights of its own citizens on a scale measuring into the tens of millions doesn't register for the “human rights activists” that promote BDS. Saudi Arabia's treatment of women as less than second class citizens, not to mention the utter lack of any political or religious freedom, is irrelevant. And so on, ad nauseum, around the world.
    Now BDSers will immediately claim that I am changing the subject. That depends. Is the subject Israel, or is the subject human rights? If the subject is Israel, and only Israel, and the object is its elimination (don't take my word for it, see what BDSer-in-chief Omar Barghouti has to say about it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifZLk6Ei9-U),then what does that say about the BDS movement? If the subject is human rights and only Israel is under scrutiny…. well, it says the same thing. And what it says is quite ugly.
    Once again, to pre-empt the expected response: not all those who have fallen for the BDS “jihad in human rights garb” ploy understand, or agree with, the underpinnings of the BDS movement. That is one of the points of educating the public as to what BDS is REALLY about.

  13. Jon February 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    David – While I appreciate your playing Butthead to my Bevis, I don’t believe I was talking about Congolese but Palestinians (you know, the people you claim to care so much about) and pointing out that they stand a much higher chance of being killed by their fellow Palestinians than by Israelies these days. In fact, if you’re a Palestinian who is truly interested in peace and reconciliation, that’s a surefire way to getting a price put on your head (probably the second riskiest thing you can do in Gaza, right behind being gay).

    Ah, but this presumes your concern for Palestinian life is real rather than feigned, a contradiction reinforced by your closing sentence in which you seem to be flirting with the notion that if Israel ever gets nuked off the earth (something that I presume will have consequences for those Palestinians you claim to care so much about as well) then she will have deserved it.

    Given that you and your fellow Olympian BDSers demand the mantle of Martin Luther King, it’s intriguing to watch you sound much more like another 60s icon: General Curtis Lemay.

  14. Jon February 14, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    Ourstreets – As Addison DeWitt might put it (http://answergirlnet.blogspot.com/2004/08/youre-too-short-for-that-gesture.html), “You’re a bit too short to be playing high inquisitor.” (Although your demands for answers might sound better if you ended each sentence with cries of “Confess!” or “Repent!”)

    For the record, I do not agree with the original anonymous poster’s accusation that Israel intentionally used white phosphorous to fry Palestinian civilians (possibly to roast marshmallows over, or maybe kosher hot dogs?). And while we’re on the subject, I also do not believe the accusation that Israelis intentionally shoot infants in the head (something an Olympia BDSer publically claimed to have seen with their own eyes), or that the Olympia Co-op board has received hundreds of death threats over their boycott decision (again, something claimed by at least one board member).

    Ironically, I take solace in the fact that the hyperbole usually seen during a BDS debate has reached such feverish levels at Olympia. For only people with a guilty conscience tend to become this hysterical when challenged. Perhaps, way deep down, the local BDSers understand how much damage they have caused in the process of getting their way at all costs. Which is why it is imperative for them that Israel be seen not simply as one party to a brutal conflict, but as a unique, ruthless evil, justifying any and all actions used against it.

  15. Jon February 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    Marla – Olympia is a big place, one in which there are clearly people like you (supporters of the boycott who are sympathetic with those who feel the boycott is an attack on them as Jews), as well as opponents of the boycott who see it in terms of historic anti-Jewish boycott activities throughout history.

    But in the many months I’ve had to get to know people in your community (Jews and non-Jews), I have found there to be another group, one that has finally gotten sick and tired of the assumption by everyone around them that one and only one position on the Middle East is morally justified. For these people, the boycott was the last straw not because it matters much in the great scheme of things (in fact, the most important outcome of the Olympia boycott to date has been to educate every other co-op in the country to avoid taking similar action), but because it provided official sanction for BDS advocates to call for the spread of such boycotts in the name of the entire membership, none of whom had a say in the policy.

    You speak of the community and board having made this decision, but point of fact, the community had nothing to do with this choice. It was made by the co-op board, in contravention of its own policies and remains in place via pressure politics that would make a Chicago alderman blush.

    Now it’s one thing to say that you are willing to make certain sacrifices for the sake of a higher good (presuming you believe having the co-op make a political statement on this issue represents a higher good). But, in truth, you have made no such sacrifice. Rather, you have asked your neighbors (at least those who do not disagree with you and your fellow BDS supporters) to make the sacrifice, all so other neighbors (BDS supporters) can have their win, no matter how high the price.

  16. Jen February 15, 2011 at 12:52 am #

    Marla, remember it's not just Jews who don't treat Israel “as a modern state like any other” — if it were, then certain marginalized peoples and their allies would say “This government has behaved badly and should be removed.”

    In fact, they usually say “This country has behaved badly and should be erased from the world map.” Something else to consider as you try to find a basis for discussion.

  17. ourstreets February 15, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    I was merely trying to display your apparent inability to answer a direct question, especially when it does not fall in line with your inaccurate narrative. Thank you for taking the time to prove my point.

  18. Jon February 15, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    No problem Ourstreets. Oh, and by the way, when exactly did you stop beating your wife?

  19. Anonymous February 15, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    Its a good point- the purpose of the BDS movement isn't a “better” Israel- its no Israel. Us (we?) good Zionists realize you can support the existence of a state that provides self determination for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland, and still not support the policies of any particular Prime minister or cabinet. Its not mutually exclusive. And we can support the existence of a Palaestinian state living side by side and in peace with its neighbors. Zionism doesn't preclude that, either. We're the progressive Zionists and the latest holders of the Zionist dream.
    But for the haters, this isn't about a better Israel. The latest Al Awda missive makes this perfectly clear. This is not about the “settlements”. This is not about the eventual borders of a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. This is about no Israel

    From Salman Abu Sitta (published Feb 13, 2010in Al Quds Al Arabi) “The occupation of Palestine did not begin in 1967; it started in 1948, with the Nakba (Catastrophe) of the creation of the state of Israel”

    Is that clear enough?

  20. Wally February 22, 2011 at 5:29 am #

    I'm a lifelong Olympian, a long-time member of the Co-op, and a supporter of the boycott.

    It's amazing just how thoroughly you distort the events in Olympia, which I witnessed as they happened. The pro-boycott people here (many of whom are the same people who supported official Olympia-Rafah sister city relations four years ago) have always been reasonable, nearly to a person, and more than willing to discuss the situation with anyone. It's the pro-Israel people here who are consistently unreasonable, obstructionist, and at times belligerent – both when they bullied the City Council to reject Rafah sister city four years ago, and when they unsuccessfully tried to bully the Co-op and its membership last year.

    There has been one phenomenon in Olympia that's been real distressing, and that's how Jews who have organized for the boycott have been targeted and isolated, even from the local Jewish community. These are people I know and work with. Just for standing up for human rights as BDS organizers, alongside their Arab-American and Muslim neighbors, they've been told “you are not a part of the Jewish community,” or been told they don't represent the “true” Jewish voice. They've been called derogatory names and received death threats, and then had others like yourself turn around and suggest such things never happened. (If it didn't, then why did some of my friends have to go into hiding?) They've even been lectured by non-Jews on how to be “better allies” to Jews. Not to mention, the local temple Beth Hatfiloh was the organizing space for the anti-boycott movement, making it uncomfortable for pro-boycott Jews to consider it a community space. It actually reminds me a lot of gay Christians, particularly in the '90s when homophobia was really volatile. By spreading the bogus assertion that the Bible condemned them in particular, they were excluded from the community they needed, for making a life choice they had every right to make. (In a tragic irony, this circularly served the narrative that the “real” Christian voice was anti-gay, because now the dissenters were excluded.) Once again, in Olympia, these were the actions of the anti-BDS, pro-Israel people. The pro-BDS people, while taking a firm stance on human rights (even when many people don't want to hear it), have been accepting and respectful.

    You may be able to distort the truth to outsiders trying to figure out what happened in Olympia. But I know better.

    As for some of the above comments, I guess I'm vaguely tired of being told what my -real- motivations -really- are, that apparently I don't -really- care about the 1967 borders, and apparently I'm -really- just trying to destroy Israel and I -really- just hate Jews. (Don't tell my friends!)

  21. Jon February 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Gosh Wally – It must be so hard for you and your fellow BDS supporters to have to walk down Main Street in Olympia and peer up at that huge mural depicting Israeli victims of terrorist attacks, then to walk into the local cinema with its annual showing of Exodus. Not to mention the endless fights Israel supporters generate at the co-op calling it to strip the shelves of all products made in countries that support Shiriah Law (laws which, as you would put it, insist that the “true nature” of Islam is anti-gay).

    Honestly, leave it to an Olympia BDSer to take the fact that their opponents occasionally object to the boycotter’s non-stop political bullying and turn it into a another example of fantasy martyrdom that fuels your “movement.” There is not an attempt to attack the legitimacy of “pro-boycott” Jews in the local temple. There is a divided temple (as there is a divided community) where tempers across the political spectrum run high. And why is this community divided? Take a look in the mirror for an answer to that question.

    For there you will find someone so enamored with their own fantasy martyrdom that you must continually ratchet up the accusations against your opponents (i.e., your neighbors) in order to convince yourself that you own bullying is a form of heroism.

    So Olympia Jews have gone into hiding because of countless, credible death threats, have they? I will admit that when I first heard the “death threat” accusation, I gave the BDSers the benefit of the doubt that maybe some deranged individual from somewhere made a threat-filled crank call to the co-op. But when this turned into accusations of having received hundreds of threats and (now) that these threats have caused people to go underground, my skepticism over this unlikelihood caused me to ask for some simple evidence to back up these outlandish claims. For example, where are the police reports? And, for good measure, where are the metal detectors at co-op meetings (like the ones I must pass through before going into any pro-Israel event here in Boston)?

    The death-threat trope is just an extreme case of the Olympia BDSers doing everything they can to get their way, all the while claiming the title victim, and all at the expense of your neighbors (who you seem to claim to be both bigots and potential murderers).

    Tell me if I missed anything, Wally.

  22. Anonymous February 22, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Wally said
    “gay Christians… making a life choice”

    Oops, that's a tell. Nice try, though.

  23. Ms. Smith February 23, 2011 at 12:39 am #

    Jon,

    Your arguments remind me too much of the sixties. They are the same white-washing arguments of the ruling White middle class.
    Now, as then, we shall overcome.

    -Ms. Smith

  24. Anonymous February 23, 2011 at 5:25 am #

    Ms.-
    Wow, you actually romanticize the 60s as “moral.” These days, even. I forgot that image still lives for some. You must be a high school or college student, aren't you?

    Good luck in your expiative quest. May you achieve feeling “moral.”

  25. Jon February 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    I hate to be the one to break it to you, Ms. Smith, but you are the White Ruling Class.

    And, in Olympia Washington, the WRC members who call the shots (whether at Evergreen, the Co-op or elsewhere) have proven to be just as ruthless, just as self-centered and just as indifferent to the needs of those they oppose as all ruling classes (white or otherwise) in history.

    But fear not, Ms. Smith. In the words of the great movement that inspires my activity against the honkeys who make up the bulk of the BDS movement: “We shall overcome.”

  26. Anonymous February 24, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    As a member of the Olympia community I would like to know which one of the films in the Mid east film festival I quote “features a Middle East consisting entirely of Israeli gargoyles and Palestinian virgins”. After going to the see the movies I don't see how any of them fit the description so could you please explain what that means?

  27. Zolok February 25, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    Now you know why the Chimes at Midnight has no comments section.
    😀

    Elias Nugator

  28. Anonymous February 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    lol @ Evergreen Clown College

    I'll just leave this here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ian_ruotsala/5473974613/

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