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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Park Slope Food Coop is Moving Toward A Vote On Whether To Boycott Products From Israel.

The three-year batle over whether Israeli products belong on the shelves of the Park Slope Food Coop is finally coming to a vote -- sort of.

The 39-year-old organic-food haven has scheduled a vote for next month to decide whether to hold a referendum of its 16,000 members on banning Israeli-made products like hummus, paprika, and seltzer.

The coop has taken stands before - banning bottled water, Coca-Cola, and hummus from a Brooklyn company accused of mistreating its workers. But no issue has split members like the Israel boycott.

“Anything we’ve boycotted in the past, the sentiment for the boycott was at almost 100%,” said general coordinator Ann Herpel.

But she said while passions run high on both sides of the issue, most members are more interested in shopping for organic produce than delving into Middle East politics.

“There are two groups that are very interested in this, and there’s a lot of people that this has not been on their radar,” she said. “Most people just feel passionately about the coop, not passionately about this issue.”

The proposal is being pushed by a group dubbed Park Slope Food Coop Members for Israeli Boycott Divestment Sanctions.

“Economic engagement with the state of Israel gives it the means and muscle to oppress, destabilize, and colonize the Palestinian people,” Mohan Sikka wrote in one letter to the Linewaiters’ Gazette - one of dozens of impassioned missives from both sides that have filled the newsletter’s pages in recent months.

Opponents have countered with their own group, called More Hummus, Please.

“It’s wrong to try to use the coop’s reputation to speak for one particular cause. We’re a diverse group of people, and we’ve come there to save money on food, period,” said Barbara Mazor, 54, of Midwood. “This is not going to have any effect on anything. It just promotes hostility, because it only puts the blame for the problem on Israel.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is not a member of the coop, advised against a boycot. “A boycott of Israel, which protects women's and human rights far more than any of its neighbors, is one-sided and unfair and I urge coop members to reject this misguided and counter-productive proposal,” the Democrat said.

At the store Tuesday, most members dismissed the idea of a boycott. “You will not change Israeli policy by boycotting its products. If it is approved, it will be damaging to the coop and a futile exercise,” said Alan Rosner, 68, of Park Slope.

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