I was right! Food Co-op is not considering Israel ban

The Brooklyn Paper
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Sorry to tell my colleagues in the media, but Tuesday night’s meeting of the Park Slope Food Co-op did not turn into the anti-Israel paroxysm you all wanted.

Last week, I became the lone journalist (in the nation, it appeared) who reported the emmes, to use the Yiddish word for truth, that the famously liberal, member’s-only supermarket on Union Street was NOT — I repeat, not — considering a ban on Israeli-made or -grown products.

All this talk of a ban — whipped up first by the Jewish Forward and then repeated (like a blood libel?) around the world by bloggers who seem to regard the 16,000-member market as some kind of anti-Israel hotbed rather than a great place for hothouse tomatoes — stemmed from a single stray comment by a woman at last month’s meeting.

“I don’t know whether or not we carry Israeli products,” said the woman, who identified herself as Hima, “but I propose that we no longer carry them.”

Sorry, but that’s now how it works at America’s largest, member-run food cooperative. Stray comments at a Park Slope Food Co-op general meeting don’t become Co-op law until there has been extensive debate, discussion and more mudslinging than at an organic composting facility.

And that’s just to get the item on the AGENDA for an upcoming meeting! You should have seen the battle over selling beer! An earlier proposal to sell meat nearly ended in murder (of humans, not cattle)!

Alas, the above fact didn’t matter to America’s blogosphere, which ran with the story that the Co-op was considering a blockade of Israel, from which it buys some persimmons and red peppers.

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

“Food Fight: Brooklyn Co-op Mulls Israel Ban,” read the headline in the original Forward article that set off the explosion of coverage.

Only the New York Post seems to have gotten the story right by doing what it does best — taking the grain of truth and calling Assemblyman Dov Hikind to get angry about it.

“ ‘Ban Israel’ Bid Mushrooms into B’klyn Food Fight,” said the Post headline — accurate, of course, because the Post created the “food fight” itself.

Like any “decent” “reporter,” I’d heard about Hima’s comments at the January meeting and knew there was a great story here. But a few phone calls and a little shoe leather revealed that Hima did not do the necessary paperwork to get her “Israel ban” on the agenda for Tuesday night’s February meeting.

Oh, and there’s paperwork!

The instructions alone on “How to Develop an Agenda Item for the General Meeting,” is two pages, single-spaced. Then the submission form for said agenda item requires an essay.

That’s not to say that the word “Israel” was not muttered at the meeting. Two members spoke about the supposed “ban”: One woman, an “original” member from 1973, objected to even talk of a boycott, even though she celebrated the Co-op’s history of such activism for “worthy” causes like “lettuce and grape growers.”

And Rabbi Andy Bachman, also a Co-op member, said he wouldn’t support a ban on Israel produce, but would relish a Co-op debate over it.

“The idea of being in a community means accepting the responsibility of debating the values of that community,” he said.

And that was that.

The remainder of the “open forum” session consisted of the Co-op’s bread-and-butter: a request to be given only one make-up shift for missing a scheduled work slot instead of two, a suggestion that there be a super-express lane for customers with just five items or less, a hope that the Co-op could open at 7 am instead of 8 am, and a question about whether it is time for the always-crammed supermarket to cap its membership.

And there was a long discussion about whether the store and its members are biased towards minorities (we are, of course) and what we can do about it (it involves sensitivity training, of course).

This is not to say that talk of an Israel ban won’t come up again.

After all, such a ban would find support in the aisles at the Food Co-op, where plenty of members think Israel’s battle with rocket-launching Gaza militants is evidence that the Jewish state is a violent thug.

There are others who think Israel’s treatment of its Arab population is the equivalent of Apartheid.

And there are others, of course, who think the Co-op is a supermarket that should focus on what it does best: selling low-cost, organic produce to a diverse collection of Brooklynites, from Muslims to orthodox Jews to atheists to vegans.

And for now, at least, that produce includes persimmons from Israel.

Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at
Updated 6:01 pm, February 26, 2009
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Reasonable discourse

Alan Leventen from Upper West Side says:
Thanks Gersh for the excellent coverage.I still hope that we can find braised body parts of Hilla on the shelves. il
Feb. 25, 2009, 9:46 am
Rocky from South Brooklyn says:
HA! Curbed just called you out ... saying that you were haughty and a variation of a word that Larry David made a whole 1/2 hour show about. Phew, it's tough out there ...
Feb. 25, 2009, 11:11 am
Jack from Brooklyn says:
Glad to hear yet again that there is no ban or even a proposal.

I think what's tragi-comic about all of this is while people were losing their minds over nothing, a true and sick anti-Semite was kicked out of Argentina for being such an anti-Semite you almost think the guy kills kittens for fun...

* He believes the Holocaust didn't happen.
* He thinks skirts encourage adultery.
* He thinks husbands have a right to beat their wives.
* He's a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.
* He said to another seminarian named Oppenheimer "...I don't like your name, there is a gas chamber waiting for you down at the lake"
* He demanded to see baptismal certificates from anyone he felt looked like a Jew.

And you know what the worst part is?
"An embarrassed Vatican claimed the pope had no knowledge of the bishop's views."

Yeah, right. They didn't know.

So basically in the period of time some paranoid loons go off the hook about a "ban" that doesn't exist, the Pope, Vatican and even the WHOLE COUNTRY OF ARGENTINA is trying to figure out what to do with a completely anti-Semitic loonball.

People, get your priorities straight. THAT GUY is a an anti-Semite. Protest anyone who defended that guy.

Yeeesh, is the sky green or blue? I don't know anymore.
Feb. 25, 2009, 8:30 pm
Carroll Gardens from Carroll Gardens says:

Where are you from originally? Do you always congratulate yourself to no end? Your overwhelming ego is going to quickly make me stop reading this paper.

Moped gangs? Are these your hipster doofus type buddies or something?
Feb. 26, 2009, 11:09 am
Vicki Polin from Brooklyn says:
The Awareness Center, Inc.
(the international Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse/Assault)
P.O. Box 65273, Baltimore, MD 21209

February 25, 2009

CALL TO ACTION: NY Assemblyman Dov Hikind
Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor" (Leviticus 19:16).

"Whoever who saves one soul of Israel, it is said about him that he/she has saved a whole world" (Sanhedrin 37A).

New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind is organization a solidarity rally in Borough Park (Brooklyn, NY) on Sunday, March 1st. Dov Hikind has a radio talk show in which he has been talking about sexual abuse in the Jewish orthodox world of Brooklyn. Because of this survivors, parents and other concerned citizens meet with him to discuss their cases and or concerns about alleged sex offenders living in their community.

Being a lawmaker in New York Dov Hikind is not a mandated reporter. Considering he is an orthodox Jew, someone who is supposed to be following the laws of Torah (the Jewish bible), a parent, and someone acting as an advocate for survivors he should be reporting cases to the New York Child Abuse Hot-line when he suspects a chld is at risk of harm. Unfortunately, Dov Hikind refuses to do this . . . which most likely leading to more unsuspecting children becoming victims of sex crimes.

I am asking that if anyone goes to this event to start protesting his refusal to protect children. If you find news media folks there bring this to their attention and let them know how you feel. As long as Dov Hikind refuses to report suspected cases of any form of child abuse and or neglect -- he is no friend of children or those who have already been sexually violated.

For more information on Halacha (Jewish Law) go to:

For more information on cases of child molestation in the Jewish community go to:

Vicki Polin, MA, NCC, LCPC
Feb. 26, 2009, 1:10 pm
Park Slope Guy from Park Slope says:
Oh, so the Co-Op won't boycott Israel? What great news! Now I know where I can buy human blood to marinate my foods as well as veal made from Palestinian schoolkids. What fun!

Seriously, Israel is one country that needs to be boycotted, especially because our government keeps giving them billions of dollars to use on ethnic cleaning, apartheid, and torture. Unfortunately, politicians who stand up to Israel have their careers ruined by ADL and similar supremacist groups.
Feb. 28, 2009, 12:57 pm

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