Co-op eyes Israeli ban - Members jeer Gaza policies

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The Park Slope Food Co-op may be souring on products imported from the Land of Milk and Honey, this paper has learned.

Members dissatisfied with Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip and West Bank are calling on a co-op wide ban of items from Israel.

“I’m so appalled, specifically to these latest war crimes against the people in Gaza,” said Carol Wald, a Prospect Heights resident and co-op member for the past 12 years. “It really freaked me out.”

Wald said she equates the treatment of Palestinians to the treatment of blacks in South Africa during apartheid. “You’re talking about the same kind of discriminatory policies and the same abrogation of human rights,” she said.

Last year, the co-op voted to ban bottled water and plastic bags. For an item to be banned, it must be placed on the agenda for the co-op’s monthly meeting. Wald said the proposed ban on Israeli food has yet to be placed on the agenda, but she hopes to do that soon. The co-op’s next general meeting is Feb. 24 at Congregation Beth Elohim, 274 Garfield Place.

“The main goal here is to provide a forum for open discussion and education. Ultimately, the goal is to change Israeli policy, but these things happen a drop at a time,” Wald conceded.

Since late January, a handful of letters have appeared in the co-ops newsletter, supporting a ban.

In the co-op’s Jan. 29 newsletter, member Hima B. urges the co-op to ban “any and all Israeli products.”

“This is not anti-Semitic – it’s about being anti-apartheid, which is what the policies of Israel’s government have imposed on the Palestinian people,” the letter states.

According to the co-op’s newsletter, Allen Zimmerman, a general coordinator who oversees produce purchases, said that there are currently Sharon persimmons and organic red peppers from Israel, but he is “unaware of offerings in other co-op areas.”

At press time, Joe Holtz, the co-op’s general manager, was not available for comment. 

Co-op squad leader Rhudi Andreolli was outraged by the proposed ban. “I am tired of these commies, socialists, and progressiv­es,” she said, “There is so much hate toward Israel and the Jewish people,” she continued. “I consider the people in Gaza the squatters. They are firing rockets at Israel,” she said.

Wald said those supportive of a ban, “don’t talk about how the children in Israel fear for their lives.”

Co-op member Sheldon Jacobson said he was planning to pen a letter blasting the proposed ban.

His hope, in part, in responding to the letters that support the ban is to show that there is a contrarian view. “If anyone’s mind is not made up, at least they know there’s opposition,” he said.

Co-op member Steven Berke called the proposed ban “outrageous, inappropriate and uninformed.”

He said that linking the situation in Israel with apartheid is drawing on emotion that is “misplaced.” “There is probably no one in the co-op who would be found to oppose any effort to defeat apartheid in South Africa.”

“But it is utterly preposterous to assert that what is happening in a region that is completely autonomous at the insistence of Israel, is similar [to apartheid],” he added.

He said he expects the proposed ban to generate passion on both sides.

“When it comes to banning bottled water, it is child’s play compared to the issue we’re talking about,” Berke said.

Wald too anticipates a lively discussion. “That’s what democracy is all about,” she said.

Updated 3:33 pm, October 19, 2011
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