Thursday, July 28, 2011

Report from the "Discussion" at the General Meeting

For this to make any sense at all, I first have to describe how the Park Slope Food Coop is governed.  The Coop's monthly General Meeting (GM) has been the decision-making body of the Coop since the Coop began in 1973.  When the Coop was incorporated in 1977, it became legally required to have a Board of Directors. However, the Board's role doesn't overshadow or replace the member initiative, discussion and decision-making that is the purpose of the GM.

Decisions are made at the monthly GM.  All members may attend and vote.  Any member can submit an item to the Agenda Committee and it will eventually get calendared for the GM.  And so it proceeded for the group of members who requested a "Discussion about Conducting a Membership-wide referendum on the participation of the PSFC in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid policies."

A Park Slope Food Coop GM "discussion" consists of 3 parts.  First, the submitting party presents the agenda item.  Second, members may ask clarifying questions to the submitting party about the item.  Finally, there is a period for comment, where members are called up one at a time for 2-3 minutes to state their opinions on the measure at hand.  No vote is taken.

If you were hoping for logical presentations of well reasoned arguments and proofs by opposing sides,  you would be disappointed. 

The "discussion" was conducted as described above, with one exception. A statement by Rabbi Bachman opposing the boycott was read prior to opening the floor to comments.  Rabbi Bachman is the senior rabbi at the nearby synagogue where the Coop holds the GM.    In all, 25 members treated us to their sound bites.  14 spoke out in opposition to BDS, 9 were in favor, and 2 made neutral comments.  Time ran out, and we voted to adjourn.

I was surprised by the lack of substance in the BDS presentation.  They spent most of their time talking about how a referendum was more democratic than a General Meeting.  They did not identify the goals of the BDS movement.  They did not provide a single specific example of Israel's horrible behaviors, other than the vague terms "violations of human rights and international law" and "apartheid."  Could it be that they can't substantiate these claims? And why hide the nature of BDS?

Maybe you can find an answer in the video at the top left.


  1. Keep up the good work.

  2. So what happens now? Is there another meeting to be held, or does only the board vote?

  3. The board only votes according to the decision of the General Meeting. The General Meeting only discusses what is scheduled by the Agenda Committee. The Agenda Committee only schedules what is submitted by the members.

    In short, I don't know.


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