Ban slammed! Park Slope Food Co-op votes no on Israeli food ban

Hear, o Israel! Food Co-op boycott moves a tiny step forward

The Park Slope Food Co-op’s wildly controversial campaign to adopt a storewide ban on Israeli-made food products died at an initial vote on Tuesday.

Members of the shopper-run, politically active grocery store voted 1,005–653 against scheduling an official vote on the hummus boycott, saying it unfairly singles out Israel — and that politics don’t belong on the dinner table.

“If you don’t like something don’t buy it — but keep politics out of the Co-op,” said member Levi Capland.

Hundreds of shop members, from sign-waving demonstrators to breast-feeding moms, joined reporters from Jewish publications and national new outlets in a packed room at Brooklyn Technical High School as grocery store patrons cast ballots on the proposed boycott.

Protesters stormed the high school, waving anti- and pro-Israel signs outside the private meeting, where members gave tense, emotionally charged testimony about whether the store should ban Israeli-made goods including hummus, paprika, and olive spread due to the country’s alleged human rights violations against Palestinians.

Some members backed up that idea, saying the store should act socially responsible.

“I feel I have a moral responsibility to vote for [the ban] because of a trip I took to Palestine,” said Dennis James, who claims he saw bullet-riddled hospitals and bombed out buildings.

The high-profile vote this week prompted neighborly rifts, political grandstanding, and more news coverage than some actual elections.

Members first proposed the boycott — which would have cleaned the shelves of about six products such as Osem couscous and Meditalia basil pesto — three years ago in the store newsletter.

It’s not the first time the 1,600-member shop has voted to ban products. The Park Slope Food Co-op banned South African products during apartheid and, more recently, plastic bags.

Some critics have called the plan anti-Semitic, including conservative TV personality Glenn Beck and Mayor Bloomberg. (perhaps the only thing the two can agree on).

In the hours before the heated meeting, an angry man stormed the manager’s office at the grocery store, demanding a chance to vote — prompting a visit from the cops.

Others think it’s not quite so complicated.

“I’m happy we can have our hummus and eat it, too,” Capland said.

This is a breaking news story — check back for the latest news on the Park Slope Food Co-op’s vote.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.