Wednesday, November 21, 2012

About that 4% Number

Just how much support was there at the Park Slope Food Coop for BDS?

If you are just coming to this story, here is a quick recap:

The Coop's governance system allows for anyone to submit something to be discussed at a General Meeting.  There is an Agenda Committee tasked with scheduling the item for presentation.  Theoretically, every proposal will eventually be presented.  All members are eligible to attend a General Meeting.  Attendance is optional.

On March 27, 2012, a proposal to conduct a referendum to boycott Israel and endorse the BDS movement was presented at the General Meeting.  Or, as it became known, "the vote on the vote."

The Coop had about 16,000 members at the time.  1,658 members came to the General Meeting and submitted ballots.  The final tally was 1,005 votes against the referendum and 653 in favor.  A 61% to 39% split among the people who came to vote.

Only 653 out of 16,000 members voted in favor of the referendum.  About 4%.

But isn't the General Meeting a statistical sample?  Can't we extrapolate the 39% to the entire membership?  No.  The people who attended the meeting were a self-selected group.  They were particularly motivated to give up an evening to attend the General Meeting.  I know the people who rearranged their schedules, made special transportation arrangements, or found babysitters so they would be free to attend.  Everyone who came cared about the issue.  90% did not show up.

What does all this mean? Even within the liberal Park Slope, within the progressive Park Slope Food Coop, support for BDS was only marginal.  BDS is a fringe movement.  It is not a main stream progressive cause.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Don't Use the Linewaiters' Gazette for Promoting Hate

An appeal to the Park Slope Food Coop Coordinators and Members of the Board of Directors

My husband and I have been Coop members for over 23 years, and my friendship with some of you goes back that far.  You have my deepest respect and appreciation for the work you have done to create and maintain the Coop.  You are the stewards of the Coop.

You listened to my concerns when the pro-BDS group began their efforts at the Coop.  You empathized with me.  Although you opposed the BDS initiative because you recognized its potential negative effect, you declined to interfere with the process of Coop governance.  Instead, you opted to allow the BDS initiative to proceed to the General Meeting with the expectation that a political defeat for the action would put the issue to rest.  I disagreed, yet I respected your decision.  I defended it when I spoke to the press, and I never disparaged the Coop publicly.

When we held the vote on the BDS referendum proposal, less than 4% of the total Coop membership came out to vote in its favor.  BDS was overwhelmingly rejected by the membership.  Yet, a few members continue to utilize the Linewaiters’ Gazette as a platform for promoting their anti-Israel agenda.  They submit letters containing distortions, misrepresentations and false statements.  It is a campaign designed to instill hatred.

Over the past several weeks, those of us with connections to Israel have seen our friends, relatives and loved ones subjected to the barrages of hundreds of rockets.  These rockets are directed at the civilian population with the intention to kill, maim and terrorize.  The Hamas charter states “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”  It is the extraordinary measure on the part of Israel to protect its citizens that has minimized the casualties and damage. 

To end these attacks upon its citizens, Israel is targeting the weapons caches and the terrorists responsible for the rockets.  The Israeli weapons, unlike the Hamas rockets, do not target civilians.  Nevertheless, there will be loss of life and property among Gaza civilians because of Hamas rockets that will fall short, because of secondary explosions from Hamas weapons stored in residential neighbors, and because of Israel’s strikes on these legitimate military targets intentionally located in civilian areas.  We are sensitive to this.

While our people are in jeopardy, are we also to be demonized and vilified in our Coop’s newspaper for legitimate acts of self-defense?  Are we to be subjected to the rants used to promote hatred of Israelis and justification for terrorism?

Earlier today I submitted a letter to the Linewaiters’ Gazette, urging the editorial teams to institute a moratorium on all submissions related to the Israel/Palestinian/Arab conflict and/or the BDS movement.  I hope that rather than print my letter they will take my suggestion to heart and start the moratorium immediately.

Even though Gazette policy is the responsibility of editors, I ask you, as Coordinators and Board Members, to encourage the editors to take this step.  You have the support 96% of the Coop.  Inclusiveness and respect for diverse identities are Coop values.  A moratorium is a way to support these values.

Dear Gazette Editorial Teams:

If the Gazette is going to continue to publish submissions relating to the Israel/Palestinian/Arab conflict and the BDS movement, then I recommend that the teams meet and agree upon clear and consistent guidelines.  These should include:
a)      exact definitions for what crosses the boundaries from legitimate discussion to any form of hate speech or racism
b)      standards for conducting fact-checking and evaluation of sources
c)      minimum qualifications and background knowledge for anyone tasked with making the above judgements.
This is a rather large demand to make of a volunteer staff of a food coop newspaper.  It is much simpler to declare a moratorium on all submissions related the subject.

The Gazette’s purpose should be to build and strengthen our community, and inform us about the issues that relate to our store, our food supply and our common purpose.  Yet, the newspaper has been allowed to become a vehicle of small group of Coop members for the promotion of anti-Israel propaganda.  In March, the Coop community was given the opportunity to weigh in on the question of BDS.  Less than 4% of the total membership showed up to vote in favor of the proposal.  The membership has overwhelmingly rejected the discussion.  It is of no relevance, appropriateness or benefit to the Park Slope Food Coop community.

These anti-Israel letters are harmful to the community.  They contain distortions, misrepresentations and false statements.  The letters are designed to instill hatred; the content is at times anti-Semitic.  No amount of vehement denials by the authors can negate the pernicious effect of these letters upon my segment of the Coop community.  We are being attacked at the heart of our national and religious identity.

Gazette editors have on multiple occasions refused to publish content they deemed inappropriate.  Discretion is not censorship.  There is no shortage of other media for the expression of anti-Israel views.  After nearly four years of acrimony surrounding these letters, there is nothing new to be said or accomplished at the Coop.  Let’s institute the moratorium and allow healing to begin.