Co-op members react: Ban? What ban? • Brooklyn Paper

Co-op members react: Ban? What ban?

The Park Slope Food Co-op

Talk of the Park Slope Food Co-op’s supposed plan to ban Israeli products has gone all over the world — everywhere except the Co-op itself, it turns out.

Interviews at the famously liberal, members-only supermarket on Friday revealed that few had heard anything about the call for barring the sale of products from the Jewish state, and fewer still would be in favor of such a ban.

“This is the first I’ve heard about it,” Co-op member Wayne Kogan said, after being shown a printout of the story on BrooklynPaper.com, which discussed a mini-movement to protest Israel’s military engagement with Gaza.

“But it sounds to me like the whole idea is a little misguided. Banning a few products wouldn’t make an enough of an economic difference to Israel anyway, and there’s a high number of [Jewish] members here, so I don’t think anything like that would ever pass.”

The tempeh in a teapot began when a Co-op member suggested at an open meeting in January that the Union Street grocery stop carrying Israeli-made or -grown products. After a brief discussion, reported by the Co-op newsletter, the Linewaiter’s Gazette, the issue was tabled because it was not on the evening’s official agenda. Additionally, the “ban” is not on the agenda for the February meeting on Tuesday.

Nonetheless, some blogs ran stories suggesting that the ban had already been implemented by the 16,000-member supermarket.

“Park Slope Food Coop Bans Israeli Food,” read the headline on New York Magazine’s Grub Street blog.

The story eventually wound its way back to the Co-op itself, where members were annoyed to be asking questions about something that never really happened.

“This whole thing was totally blown out of proportion. It doesn’t make any sense at all,” said one Co-op member.

Once informed of the mini-movement for a ban, however, some Co-op members were intrigued. Indeed, beyond its staunch liberal politics — this is the supermarket that has taken positions on Apartheid, bottled water and the use of plastics, after all — part of the Co-op’s appeal is its attention to where its food comes from and how that food is produced.

“Isn’t the purpose of the Co-op to buy locally grown and locally made products,” asked one commenter on the BrooklynPaper.com site. “Why buy anything from out of the USA or Brooklyn, whether from Israel or any country? All those products come with a huge carbon footprint, no matter how much cheaper it is. I don’t say ban Israeli-made products, but ban all out-of-USA products to make all their products green!”

And the larger issue — global politics — is never too far from the kohlrabi- and organic bulghur-filled aisles of the 36-year-old grocery store.

“It’s worth discussing [because] I think there is a reason to express a negative opinion of the Israeli military right now,” said Stephen Twilley, a member from Clinton Hill. “But I don’t know if a ban on products is the best way to express that.”

And, this being perhaps the nation’s only supermarket-democracy, many members said that even though they would disagree with such a ban, they naturally respected the right of a member to propose it.

“I personally would vote against it, but every proposal should be considered,” said Paul Friedman of Prospect Lefferts Gardens. “It’s part of the structure and thought of the Co-op.”

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