Monday, May 11, 2015

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.

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