For those following what’s expected to be this season’s big BDS co-op fight in Park Slope New York, it’s worth taking a good look at the latest issue of the co-op’s monthly newsletter, the Linewaiter’s Gazette.
The first reason to check it out is to read a piece by Joe Holtz, one of the organization’s founders, who (on page 5) makes an appeal to fellow members to reject the referendum being voted on at the group’s general meeting later in March. Not since the leaders of the Davis Food Co-op published explanations as to why they were rejecting a boycott have I read anything so lucid and original.
Like the leaders at Davis, Holtz points out that a boycott vote would violate the very principles upon which the co-op movement was founded, which flies in the face of claims by boycott advocates that the co-op’s mission unquestionably requires it to take a stand on Middle East politics (because “food is political” – whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean).
But Holtz also points out that a referendum (in which the majority would prevail) makes no sense with regard to a vote on something that would be interpreted as representing the uniform belief of the membership of the entire organization. Yet opinions regarding who is right and who is wrong in the Middle East are clearly NOT uniform in Park Slope, testified by the fact that over a thousand members of an organization bitterly divided over the issue will be getting together to fight it out in a few weeks time.
Under such circumstances, would a referendum (or any majority vote) on the subject mean that consensus had been reached that the co-op was ready to speak in one voice on a controversial political subject? Or would it simply end up the means whereby a simple majority could try to win the right to speak in the name of every man, woman and child in the organization?
Holtz also points out those advocating for their political beliefs have the means to communicate their message, by publishing letters in the Gazette in which they can try to persuade fellow members to make individual decisions regarding what to buy (and not buy) that comports to the BDS (or any other) political agenda. But convincing individuals to make individual choices is clearly not what the BDSers are after. Rather, they desire to claim the name and reputation of the entire institution and all its memberships (past and present) as complying with their “Israel = Apartheid” propaganda message, the opinion of those who disagree with this political interpretation be damned. And as Holtz implies, majority rule should not decide who gets to own the organization’s name and reputation.
Other articles on the same subject (especially the letters to the editor which start on page 12) are another reason for you to read this month’s Linewaiter’s Gazette since they help illustrate a phenomena that invariably visits an organization forced to host a BDS fight, a phenomena I dubbed “TheCircus.”
Did you know, for example, that those who oppose the boycott are guilty of violence and intimidation? (Or, to be more specific, the boycotters want to place their opponents on the defensive for the anti-social activity that may or may not have taken place by those who oppose the boycott.)
I say “may or may not” because this is not the first time BDS champions have accused their critics of using threats and violence to harass them. After the Olympia Co-op boycott was stuffed down the throats of the membership, I heard similar accusations thrown into the faces of those who opposed this decision, accusations I took at face value when they were first made (assuming that there could very well be a deranged individual somewhere who thought he was doing the right thing by making harassing phone calls to the store). But once these accusations escalated to where members of Olympia BDS were claiming to have received hundreds of death threats, I quickly realized that this was just another set of tactical lies designed to shut up the boycotter’s foes.
Keep in mind that the people trading accusations of harassment, violence, racism, cynicism and hypocrisy (on both sides of the issue) in the letters page are not strangers but neighbors, people who once came together in common cause to create and maintain a civic institution (in this case, a food co-op) designed to support and provide for the needs of all.
This degradation of civic life – all so a group of single issue partisans who refuse to take no for an answer – can claim to speak for everyone else gets at the heart of why I find BDS such a sickening phenomena. My loathing of the lies behind the whole “Israel = Apartheid” propaganda message obviously plays a role, but the entire BDS “movement” would be far less contemptible if it didn’t prey on people with consciences (which the BDSers so clearly lack), just so they can leverage someone else’s reputation to try to punch above their own limited political weight.