Saturday, September 10, 2016

NYC City Council to Vote on anti-BDS Resolution

Resolution 1058-A, “A resolution condemning all efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the people of Israel.” is scheduled for a vote on September 14 by the New York City Council.

I hope this will pass and I hope the members of the Council's Progressive Caucus will vote for it as well.  BDS falsely markets itself as a "progressive" cause.  Too many progressives are duped into supporting BDS because of confirmation bias and lack of knowledge about  a complex issue.

Let's be clear. Bigotry is not progressive.  Discrimination is not progressive. Defamation is not progressive.  Ignoring, denying or justifying violence is not progressive.  Denying history is not progressive. Distorting and selectively quoting international law is not progressive.

The BDS movement ignores the role of Arab anti-Jewish attitudes in the development of opposition to legal Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel during the pre-State and Ottoman periods.  The BDS movement denies the Jewish people their identity as a unique group with a national history and right to self-determination.  The BDS movement singles out the world's only Jewish for opprobrium.  The BDS movement falsely represents Israel.  The BDS movement ignores the existence, incitement and actions of Palestinian terror groups dedicated to targeting and murdering Jews - anywhere in the world.  The BDS movement's activities on American college campuses correlates with acts of violence, harassment and intimidation of Jewish students.

This is from the testimony of New York City Jewish Community Relations Council CEO Michael Miller to the Council last week.
BDS tactics are one-sided and are focused solely on eliminating Israel. BDS turns a blind eye to Palestinian actions which seek to undermine a two state solution, such as terrorism, indiscriminate rocket fire on civilian areas, repeated refusals to negotiate for peace, and unfortunate rejections of Israeli offers for Palestinian statehood. Rather than focusing on improving the situation for both peoples, BDS activists sabotage the internationally-backed peace process  hat is premised on advancing mutual understanding and respect between the parties.
Economic boycotts and divestment actions will not help the Palestinian people. The path to the two-state solution depends on creating an atmosphere of peace and reconciliation combined with economic development and political achievement. Blocking that path is the BDS Movement.
If you believe in the right of the Jewish people to be safe and secure in their historic homeland, I urge you to support this resolution.
If you believe in the right of the Palestinian people to their own state alongside, but not instead of, Israel, I urge you to support this resolution.
If you believe in a true peace process and oppose divisive, destructive tactics that attempt to cripple our ally Israel, I urge you to support this resolution.
If you believe that together, we can play a constructive role in ensuring that Israelis and Palestinians can work toward achieving mutual understanding, cooperation, and a better future for themselves, their children, and their grandchildren, I urge you to support this resolution.
If you are a New York City resident please contact your Council representative and say you support Resolution 1058-A

Sunday, May 8, 2016

BDS Does Not Belong in the Park Slope Food Coop

I submitted the following letter to the Coop's biweekly newspaper., the Linewaiters' Gazette (LWG).  It was rejected for publication. I will address the reasons given for rejection in a separate post.
“Zionists should be sent to the gas chambers,” someone wrote on a bathroom wall at UC Berkeley – ground-zero of the BDS movement in the United States. “Death to Israel,” “Kill all the Jews” and multiple swastika graffiti have also been found on the Berkeley campus. These are the fruits of the hate promoted by the BDS movement.

Apparently it is a crime worthy of genocide to recognize the Jewish People as a distinct national group with a unique history, language, and culture, and to support their right to self-determination and self-preservation as an indigenous people in a portion of their ancestral homeland that is source of their culture. Further, by calling for this genocide is to be carried out using the same mechanism specifically designed by the Nazis for the extermination of the Jews 75 years earlier, the writer implies approval for the actual murder of one-third of world Jewry.

In our own Coop, a BDS supporting member has publicly expressed the desire that Orthodox Jews not be Coop members. In the Gazette, BDS members have:
  • called for the support of a leading member of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (3/8/12,p.6).
  • equated Israel with Nazi Germany (12/11/14, p.7).
  • told Jews how they should understand their Jewishness (8/21/14, p.13 & 10/30/14, p.13)
  • called for the dismantling of Israel (6/16/11, p. 10).
None of this has any relation to Palestinian human rights. None of this can be called “criticism of Israel.”

Well-intentioned people may support the BDS movement because they believe they are supporting Palestinian human rights. However, the BDS movement does not promote rights or democracy. It seeks to portray Israel’s very existence as incompatible with human rights. In doing so, it works to justify attacks upon Israel and Israel’s supporters.

In April, former U.S. Treasury Terrorism Analyst Jonathan Schanzer testified before Congress that the funders of the BDS movement in the US were also funders of Hamas, the terrorist group whose charter calls not only for the elimination of Israel but also the murder of ALL JEWS everywhere. The BDS movement is a part of a century-old effort of an elite, despotic Arab leadership to maintain its hegemony. The BDS movement works to further entrench a Palestinian leadership that has enriched itself through the prolongation of the conflict at the expense of the Palestinian people.

This is why so many of us oppose the BDS movement, and why I labeled it a “vicious racist movement.” This is not speech that should be protected in the Coop. The GCs’ decision to no longer allow the use of the meeting room for BDS-related activities is a wise one and a step in the right direction for returning normalcy to the Coop.

If you agree it is time to end the promotion of the BDS movement in the Food Coop, then please add your name to my petition.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Is Anti-Zionism a form of Anti-Semitism?

The Pope's answer:

and on October 28, 2015, Pope Francis said at a meeting with Jewish leaders to mark the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate
“To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism.  There may be political disagreements between governments and on political issues, but the State of Israel has every right to exist in safety and prosperity.”
And President Obama, in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, in the Atlantic
On Israel, Obama endorsed, in moving terms, the underlying rationale for the existence of a Jewish state, making a direct connection between the battle for African American equality and the fight for Jewish national equality. “There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law,” he said. “These things are indivisible in my mind.”

In discussing the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe, he was quite clear in his condemnation of what has become a common trope—that anti-Zionism, the belief that the Jews should not have a state of their own in at least part of their ancestral homeland, is unrelated to anti-Jewish hostility. He gave me his own parameters for judging whether a person is simply critical of certain Israeli policies or harboring more prejudicial feelings.

“Do you think that Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and are you aware of the particular circumstances of Jewish history that might prompt that need and desire?” he said, in defining the questions that he believes should be asked. “And if your answer is no, if your notion is somehow that that history doesn’t matter, then that’s a problem, in my mind. If, on the other hand, you acknowledge the justness of the Jewish homeland, you acknowledge the active presence of anti-Semitism—that it’s not just something in the past, but it is current—if you acknowledge that there are people and nations that, if convenient, would do the Jewish people harm because of a warped ideology. If you acknowledge those things, then you should be able to align yourself with Israel where its security is at stake, you should be able to align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not held to a double standard in international fora, you should align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not isolated.”

Monday, July 6, 2015

Anti-BDS Letter from Hillary Clinton

A number of news media outlets have already picked up a letter from Hillary Clinton to Haim Saban in which Clinton expresses her "alarm over the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement."  Saying "we need to repudiate efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people," Clinton asks Saban for advice on how to work "across party lines" to fight back against BDS.

Read the full letter below or download here.

Monday, May 11, 2015

For the Media

May 11, 2015 - This morning I woke up to find an editorial in the New York Daily News about  the  latest BDS effort at the Park Slope Food Coop.  The editorial is based on a report appearing at the The Indypendent written by a Food Coop member who attended the April General Meeting.  The editorial contains no original first hand reporting.

I love reporters.  I envy your writing abilities.  I had a great time talking to reporters three years ago. But I also have a day job.  This time please send your questions to my email stopbdsparkslope at  We will try to send you answers within 24 hours.  I think this will work better for everyone.

The Food Coop is an extremely successful experiment.  Starting with a few people 40 years ago who decided to collectively buy wholesale, it has grown into a $50 million/year business, employing some 50 people, and providing them with very competitive salaries and attractive benefits.  In addition, members save thousands of dollars a year on their food bill and we support local agriculture.

The Coop's Mission Statement includes:
We are committed to diversity and equality. We oppose discrimination in any form. We strive to make the Coop welcoming and accessible to all and to respect the opinions, needs and concerns of every member. We seek to maximize participation at every level, from policy making to running the store.

We welcome all who respect these values.
Yet, from time to time, for better or worse, because of the nature of Food Coop governance relies on the cooperative spirit and good will of its members, food coops - like colleges - are left vulnerable to exploitation by groups seeking to promote their political causes.  As the the blog Divest This! writes:

One answer has to do with our old friend ruthlessness.  For in a society, such as a college community, that values discourse and assumes people will resolve problems reasonably and amicably, how do you deal with an organization ready to trash the entire enterprise in order to torture and smear their political enemies?
 Please check back here for relevant articles as I post responses to the latest BDS effort.

How To Get Our House in Order
From the Perspective of an Israeli Coop Member

How To Get Our House in Order

The following was submitted by a Coop member who attended the April General Meeting at the Park Slope Food Coop.  She offers some insights into how and why the meeting got out of control, and suggestions for how we can do better:

Fully appreciating that the committees referenced below made good faith efforts to exercise their complex responsibilities, it was nonetheless not surprising that the April GM at one point devolved into a chaotic shouting match. The many reasons follow, with constructive suggestions for assuring order in the future.

THE AGENDA COMMITTEE (AC) made an error of judgment by scheduling a discussion about boycotting SodaStream in the "Occupied Palestinian Territories" (aka "disputed territories"). It was well-known by all relevant parties that the factory in question was closing one week from the meeting, information relayed in writing by SodaStream upon request from Coop management and forwarded to the AC. Therefore the discussion clearly revolved around a moot point and offered little but a third opportunity (2011 discussion, 2012 boycott referendum proposal, soundly defeated) to make the familiar, highly controversial claims repeatedly published (and refuted) for six years in the Gazette.
SUGGESTION: In future the AC might consider the appropriateness and value of a discussion/proposal based on an obsoleted premise, in this instance that there would be a factory to boycott.

THE CHAIR COMMITTEE (CC), with the unenviable task of making split-second parliamentary decisions, unfortunately lost control of some of the proceedings, not their fault alone given that all factions contributed to the ensuing chaos.

During the Open Forum an attempt to query the AC about the legitimacy of the discussion was ruled out of order despite meeting the relevant guideline providing "the opportunity for members to briefly submit general and specific questions regarding the operation of the Coop"1 (which naturally includes the AC). SUGGESTION: Future meetings would benefit from a reading of the brief guideline by the Chair prior to the Open Forum.

A later parliamentary attempt was made to question the validity of the discussion (Objection to Consideration of a Question), similarly rejected by the Chair.
SUGGESTION: In future the Chair might inform members about how to exercise their parliamentary rights2, (among other ways, by making a motion) detailed on easily overlooked handouts, which to facilitate order might be projected above the stage2.

Although the discussion was submitted by only two individuals, the Chair allowed six presenters, providing them a disproportionate time-advantage in the discussion. Irrelevant and out-of-context images of Israeli military were displayed, suggesting, without unambiguously depicting, Israeli abuses. This predictably provoked – unfortunately but understandably – a call to remove the images. To his credit the Chair repeatedly but futilely directed the projectionist to desist, but finally gave up when she refused, resulting in a lengthy shouting match.
SUGGESTION: In future the Chair should suspend the discussion until compliance with an order is achieved or remind members of their right to make a motion and vote on removing the images. (Objections were also made, but ignored, about a presenter provocatively imaging audience reactions from the podium).

Following management's reading of the letter about the imminent closing of the relevant SodaStream factory, some in the audience continued to disrupt, with unfortunately no effective restraint by the Chair. SUGGESTIONS: The Chair should offer disrupters a choice to desist or leave, and, if necessary, either escort them out or, again, suspend the proceedings until compliance is secured. In future, discussions about this incendiary, divisive topic (best avoided altogether), might benefit (sadly) from security presence as at the 2012 meeting.

Following the six-person presentation, the Chair directed alternating one minute pro and con responses, thus providing no reasonable opportunity for serious debate of the highly contentious material presented. SUGGESTION: For debates on such complex and controversial topics, a more equitable alternate format should be developed, allowing an equivalent counter-presentation by informed opposition representatives prior to the alternating, inadequate one-minute, pro and con responses.

Unfortunately, it can be claimed that the proceedings exemplified the very tactics encouraged and used globally by BDS advocates, who routinely disrupt Israeli events and speakers (this naturally doesn't excuse comparable -- understandable but unacceptable -- disruption from the opposing faction). In a sense, the presenters experienced what it feels like to be on the receiving end of their movement's own tactics. SUGGESTION: But now, we collectively – members, management, committees, and the Board of Directors – all need to reconsider allowing enduring divisiveness so far outside the boundaries of inclusiveness, courtesy, sensitivity and respect for the dignitary rights of all groups within our community, assuring harmony and cohesion above disruptive partisan politics only tangentially relevant to the Coop.

From the Perspective of an Israeli Coop Member

The following was written by Coop Member Yoav Gal following the April General Meeting of the Park Slope Food Coop.

I would like to apologize for the rowdy behavior exhibited during last week’s General Meeting. My expectation at the GM was to hear updates about the Coop and discuss on-going issues, not to be subjected to a political propaganda pageant. I ask the members to understand the reaction in this context. There may have been better ways to object to the BDS presentation, but there is just no possibility of just staying quietly in my seat in the face of baseless and pointless demonization of my people.

Hate speech cannot be allowed. We will not accept presentations alleging the evil or inferiority of Muslims, women, blacks, gays, Mexicans, or any other group of people, even though plenty of ‘evidence’ and audio-visual material can always be found to ‘support’ any kind of such ‘claims’. Similarly, I cannot accept the demeaning caricature of my people - the vibrant and pluralistic liberal democracy of Israel - as a “colonial, apartheid power oppressing the indigenous people.”

How can we tell that the BDS presentation was an Israel-hate rally? Let’s examine:

Can the proposed boycott of Sodastream help anyone? No. The ‘success’ of this campaign will cause 500 Palestinian workers to lose well-paid jobs with benefits and promotion opportunities.

Do the Palestinians support this effort? No. The workers of Sodastream expressed themselves against this campaign and even Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is against BDS.

Did the presenting group make and effort to present a thoughtful and balanced approach to their issue? No. They recited ready-made propaganda material, cherry-picked information, out context facts and outright lies.

Does the boycotting Israeli products in general has any other merit in the cause of justice? No.

Israel isn’t a colonial power, it does not practice apartheid, nor does it oppress any indigenous people. Zionism is a national liberation movement, whose greatest ‘fault’ is in creating a vibrant democracy in the Middle East.

Still, can we help the Palestinians? Of course, we can and should, though positive actions such as the proposed purchasing of Palestinian olive oil, among other initiatives.

Lastly, we need to be clear about the harm done by BDS. Demonizing lectures about my people makes the coop a non-welcoming place to me as an Israeli Jew. I will not continue my membership in an organization, which is unjustly antagonistic towards my fellow Israelis. A bigger problem still, is the potential of demonization to lead to violence. The threat of terrorism against Jews and Israelis in particular is real. Armed guards are already the norm in synagogues, schools and camps. In Europe, where the lines between political opposition and Anti-Semitism have been largely erased, the situation is such that Jews are simply packing up and leaving. We do not wish to see a similar situation in Brooklyn.

I ask that the coop leadership find the organizational means to put a stop to the continued community-divisive tactics of BDS at the coop.