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.


  1. A pair of excellent letters. The Coop really is not the right venue, but as long as the BDS folks insist on using it an some kind of mouthpieces, the board really does need to institute some editorial guidelines.

    Please let us know how it turns out.

  2. I just want to clarify on procedure. The PSFC Board does not meet other than at the end of the monthly General Meetings. They do not have a separate agenda, but they do vote on whether to accept the advice of the General Meeting, if any agenda items were voting items, they vote to accept/reject those votes. In other words, you should submit this as an agenda item for a General Meeting. There are forms at the Coop to do this. Often the Agenda Committee (the elected committee of members who figures out what goes onto each monthly meeting's agenda) puts new items on the agenda as discussion items first, so the meeting can discuss it, you can hear the pros/cons from other members (and some staff) so you can build a better agenda item for the next time it comes to the meeting, which would be as a voting item.

    Writing a letter to the Linewaiters' Gazette is a good start in terms of having other members see it, however I want to again clarify: The Linewaiters' Gazette is member-run. Staff do not tell the editors what can and cannot be in any part of the paper. Asking the Staff to step in is simply not going to do much because the Coop just does not function that way. Your best bet is to bring it to the General Meeting. There you can make your case and have members vote on it.

    1. Dear Unknown:

      Thank you for your reply, I appreciate it.

      I totally understand the independence of the Gazette Editors, which is why I DO NOT ask the staff or board to DICTATE to the Gazette Editors what to do. However, I also understand that people can make unfortuante decisions when they don't have access to a broad understanding.

      There have been multiple requests printed in the Gazette to end the letters. Not a single Gazette Editor has ever replied, yet alone justified their continued printing. Furthermore, the various Gazette Teams apply Gazette standards differently, allowing some pretty horrible things to be printed. We have submitted letters of protest, again never receiving a response, other than the publication of said letter. We have requested to meet with the Gazette Coordinators, and were curtly refused. We were told we could submit a letter.

      So, I appeal to the staff and the board, at least some of whom have expressed to me their concern over the negative impact the anti-Israel campaign has on the Coop and their desire to see this issue leave the Coop. As staff and board members, your opinions hold more gravitas. I only ask that if you feel the continued use of the Gazette for printing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda is unhealthy for the Coop, that you communicate your view to the Gazette Editors.

      This is not about taking a side in the Middle East conflict one way or the other. This is about enforcing a level of respect for the sensibilities of ALL the members, equally. This is about not allowing a small group, with only marginial support, to hijack the Coop.

      The Park Slope Food Coop is an amazing achievment accomplished by 16,000 individuals representing the entire spectrum of diversity. Its success is the function of it being a safe place for all its members. The BDS effort threatened to destroy it. The Gazette is preventing us from healing.

      Barbara Mazor


Comments are moderated. Please don't use profanities. Comments are usually posted within 24 hours, except on weekends. Please be patient.