This entry refers to an event that has already passed. All information here is for historical reference only.

Proposed for Spring 2010 Co-op Election
Davis Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East

A group of members of the Co-op are proposing a member initiative to have the store boycott Israeli products, and take other actions. The Co-op General Manager has authority under Board Policy GP-10 to direct that products be removed, but has declined to take this action. Members have the right to petition under our Bylaws; they will need to gather the signatures of five percent of Co-op shareholders — over 500 signatures, since there are over 10,000 members as of 1/1/10.


Text of Intitiative

Here is the text of the "Resolution" being offered to Co-op shareholders for their signatures, to place it on the ballot: RESOLUTION BY THE SHAREHOLDERS OF THE DAVIS FOOD COOP FOR THE BOYCOTT OF ISRAELI PRODUCTS AND PARTICIPATION IN THE GLOBAL BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, AND SANCTIONS CAMPAIGN

Whereas the Davis Food Coop ascribes to the principles of cooperatives as adopted by the International Cooperative Alliance, which states that cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others;

Whereas the Davis Food Coop previously has taken positions of social responsibility, including joining international boycotts that enable non-governmental organizations to help resolve unjust situations when their governments have failed to do so;

Whereas a global, non-violent international effort known as “The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign” (BDS Campaign), which is similar to that used to end apartheid in South Africa, was initiated in 2005 by Palestinian civil society and has been joined by non-governmental organizations around the world to put economic and political pressure on the State of Israel to stop its ongoing, violations of the human, civil, and political rights of the Palestinian people living in the West Bank, Gaza, and in the State of Israel, and violations of the rights of Palestinian refugees and their descendents; and considering that there are now serious allegations that the State of Israel committed war crimes in its December 2008 - January 2009 attack on the people of Gaza;

Whereas the government of the United States continues to provide the State of Israel with political and diplomatic support, military aid in excess of $3 billion annually, loan guarantees and other forms of economic aid that enable the State of Israel to continue its military occupation and colonization of the West Bank and the siege on Gaza;

Whereas the government of the United States has repeatedly failed to apply effective diplomatic pressure on the State of Israel to require that it end its violation of international law and the rights of the Palestinian people, and appears to have no intention of changing its policy toward the State of Israel;

Now, therefore, we the shareholders of the Davis Food Coop resolve that the Board of Directors of the Davis Food Coop honor the BDS Campaign by establishing a policy to: 1) halt the importation, purchase, or sale of any and all Israeli goods; 2) refrain from supporting companies that sell products or services to Israel and which are used to violate the human rights of Palestinians, 3) divest any financial interests in Israeli private and state-owned enterprises that the Davis Food Coop may have, and 4) act in accordance with the principles established by the BDS Campaign until the conditions of the campaign are met, specifically that the State of Israel ends its occupation and colonization of all Palestinian lands; dismantles the Separation Barrier; recognizes the fundamental rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects, and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in United Nations Resolution 194.

Initiative Links

For information about the boycott initiative campaign, please contact the Davis Committee for Palestinian Rights at 530-747-0185 or email

More information about the drive for Boycott, Divestment, And Sanctions to change Israeli policies: The Electronic Intifada Global BDS Movement U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation Israel Boycott at The Jewish Chronicle "Co-op Challenged by Member Boycott Request" Cooperative Grocer article from 2008

Co-op Responses

March 15, 2010 Resolution of Co-op Board

Here is the March 15, 2010 resolution of the Food Co-op Board of Directors, which passed by a unanimous vote:

Whereas, according to our bylaws and articles of incorporation, the primary purpose of our cooperative is to engage in the business of selling food and other household products to the benefit of our members, and other purposes are secondary thereto and shall not limit this primary purpose, and

Whereas, the change to Article X, Section 2 of our bylaws that reduced the required percentage of member signatures needed to qualify a ballot measure for member vote, from 15% to 5%, included an inherent expectation that the “lawful and proper purpose” clause would be more stringently interpreted and enforced, and

Whereas, the wording of the initiative proposed demands that the Davis Food Cooperative (DFC) to accept the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestine (BDS) Campaign's characterization and judgment of Israeli actions as fact, would require us to accept the Global BDS Campaign's tactics as our own, and would allow the Global BDS to determine our compliance with its principles and policies, whatever they may be, and

Whereas, the wording of the initiative proposed demands that this Board, which has a fiduciary duty to the DFC and its members, subject its authority and discretion in the management and operation of the DFC to BDS, a third party entity that owes no such duty to the DFC or its members, but rather has, as its primary goal, the furtherance of a political movement with aims not necessarily consistent with the aims and goals of the Board or the DFC; and

Whereas, the wording of the initiative proposed will necessarily restrict the business, operational, and managerial authority and discretion given to the Board under our bylaws and the laws of the State of California, and

Whereas, the wording of the initiative proposed is very broad and does not provide practical specificity about the scope of companies, products or items to be covered; leading to such ambiguities and difficulties such as inter alia whether the proposed boycott would cover: (1) products manufactured or distributed by a company whose principal place of business is in Israel versus any company that has any Israeli shareholders; (2) products manufactured or distributed by any company who has partnered or associated itself with an Israeli company, however that term is defined; (3) any item that contains components, which are Israeli or manufactured or distributed (in whole or in part) by Israeli companies, etc., and

Whereas, because of the broad and vague wording of the initiative proposed, it would require an unreasonable expenditure of time, money, and resources to determine the DFC’s obligations under the proposed boycott, including the ongoing identification all companies and products which are Israeli, including which products contain components which are Israeli, and

Whereas, we have already seen evidence of a tense and uneasy atmosphere at the DFC, a reduction in shoppers and sales, disruption to business operations, and distraction from other priorities associated or correlated with the initiative proposed;

Whereas, in response to the proposed initiative, there have already been threatened member resignations and requirement for the return of capital, and threats of permanent loss of members shoppers (and thus loss of sales) by entire groups within the community, etc., and

Whereas, our articles grant the cooperative no specific powers to engage in political activity of any kind, and

Whereas the Rochdale Principles, upon which the cooperative movement was founded, properly emphasize the basic principle of political (and religious) neutrality and the dangers of meddling in political (and religious) affairs, and adherence to Cooperative Principles is an End of the organization, and

Whereas modern cooperatives, particularly food cooperatives, that have failed to abide by this essential principle of political neutrality have been harmed by the divisiveness that such issues cause among members and shoppers, including: an unwelcoming atmosphere for all, reduction in shoppers and sales, member resignations and return of capital, staff layoffs, disrupted operations, distraction from priorities, and more, and

Whereas, the wording of the proposed initiative would require the DFC to violate another Cooperative Principle (cooperation among cooperatives), because the DFC would have to discontinue selling products from Israeli and Palestinian co-operatives, and

Whereas the DFC is not qualified to pass judgment on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of actions or policies of any foreign government, particularly with respect to extraordinary actions by such governments that are invoked in the name of national security, and

Whereas the proper purpose of a member initiative that suggests or recommends action is one that: (a) is asserted in good faith, (b) supports our established cooperative principles, articles of incorporation, bylaws and ends; (c) provides benefits to our cooperative as a whole; and (d) is truthful and free of distortion and material omission, so as not to confuse or mislead voters; and the proper purpose for a member initiative that requires or demands action is one that in addition to the above, (e) is for a purpose reserved to shareholders by our bylaws and in accordance with state law, and

Whereas, in addition to the factors set forth in the foregoing paragraph, in determining whether a proposed member initiative is “proper” under our bylaws, the Board must weigh and balance the following factors: (a) whether, and to what extent, the initiative furthers or inhibits our established cooperative principles, articles of incorporation, bylaws and ends, including without limitation the principles of political and religious neutrality, and cooperation among cooperatives; (b) whether, and to what extent, the initiative provides benefits to our cooperative, and what the nature of such benefits are; (c) whether, and to what extent, the initiative suggests versus demands/requires action from the Board or the DFC; (d) whether the initiative unreasonably interferes with the operation of the DFC, or unreasonably causes loss of membership, capital, or sales; (e) whether, and to what extent, the initiative interferes with the autonomy or independence of our cooperative; (f) whether, and to what extent, the initiative interferes with or restricts the managerial discretion, authority, and independence of the Board, or others to whom such discretion and authority is delegated under our bylaws and the laws of the State of California; (g) whether, and to what extent, the initiative subjects the authority or managerial discretion of the Board (or other DFC management) to third party entities: (i) who do not owe the cooperative any fiduciary duties, and (ii) whose goals may not necessarily coincide with those of the DFC; and (h) whether, and to what extent, the initiative is sufficiently clear in language and scope to be reasonably understood, and to be practically implemented.

Finding, that in weighing and balancing the above factors, it is our judgment, in the best interests of the DFC, that the proposed member initiative is not “proper” within the definition of our bylaws;

Therefore, and without prejudice to our determination regarding whether the proposed member initiative to boycott all Israeli products may be excluded from the ballot based on a failure to specify a lawful purpose, we hereby determine that the initiative may be excluded for failure to specify a proper purpose.

February 5, 2010 Resolution of Co-op Board

Here is the February 5, 2010 resolution of the Food Co-op Board of Directors, which passed by a unanimous: Food Co-op Board Initiative Resolution Letter 2_2010.pdf This letter concludes: Therefore the Davis Food Cooperative respectfully concludes that the proposed member initiative calling for an anti-Israel boycott does not qualify under its bylaws to be presented to the membership on the ballot.

As a result of this resolution, the Board of Directors will not be putting the current “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” petition on the ballot.

The Board respects the rights of members to propose member sponsored initiatives and will act in accordance to the bylaws with respect to these initiatives.

Initial Statement from Co-op General Manager

Here is an earlier statement that Co-op General Manager Eric Stromberg has sent to concerned members who've contacted him:

The boycott petition is organized by a group of Co-op members using their rights under the Bylaws. The Davis Food Co-op is not in any way involved in organizing or supporting the boycott.

I was asked by a spokesperson for this group if I would remove Israeli products and to support their campaign; I have the authority to do so under our Binding Initiative and Boycott Policy (GP-10) but declined to do so. The group informed the Davis Food Co-op Board of Directors at their December meeting of its intention to gather signatures for the resolution to place it on the Co-op Election ballot as a member initiative for a vote by the members. If they are successful in gathering enough signatures, the matter will be on the ballot this May.

I believe that members should choose to buy or not buy products based on their individual needs and values. Staff works hard to create a pleasant shopping experience, and we hope you understand that the petition is an expression of a group of members and is not reflective of Board or Staff action.

The group, to my knowledge, has not engaged in anti-Semitic behavior while on Co-op property, contrary to allegations I have received. The Co-op does not tolerate discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, position in a labor dispute, or any other characteristic protected by law.

The group informed the Davis Food Co-op Board of Directors of its intention to gather signatures for the resolution and has given the board a copy of the resolution. They asked the Board to set aside time on an agenda to hear a presentation, but the Board President declined. No other action was requested on the part of the Board and none has been taken.

As with all organizations provide information or gather signatures on Co-op property, the group is required to follow the Co-op's procedures.

Correction to the Davis Enterprise Story of March 10, 2010

The previous decision of the Board that the BDS resolution on a boycott of Israeli products is not “lawful” under the bylaws stands. That board action is not being reconsidered. The Board of the Davis Food Co-op is meeting on Monday, March 15, to consider whether the proposed BDS resolution is “proper” under the bylaws. Our bylaws require that any member initiative placed on the ballot be both lawful and proper.

Opposition to Boycott


The Davis Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East has been soliciting signatures on the following statement: We the undersigned protest against any effort or resolution by the Davis Food Co-op, or any other retail establishment in the City of Davis, that would in any way be complicit with the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” movement directed against the sovereign Jewish nation of Israel. Any effort to restrict or eliminate Israeli products that are sold at the Davis Food Co-op, or any other retail establishment, must be rejected outright.

Anti-divestment links

"Divest This!" ; a nice article reflecting that Egypt and Jordan certainly are NOT boycotting Israel ! ; nice article reflecting the active trading between Palestinians and Israel !; a recent Pew research poll that flies in the face of the boycott resolution's assertions that that Israel treats it's Arab citizens poorly A Harvard poll showing Israeli Arabs LIKE living in Israel (more than anywhere else!)!!

Information regarding Food Co-op elections

The Co-op Bylaws Administrative Policies


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Many interesting comments were about the Middle East and not particularly about the Food Co-op or the proposed member initiative. Find them at Boycott, Divestment, And Sanctions against Israel.

2010-01-18 22:06:00   wat ? —StevenDaubert

  • This controversy is already generating drama among Co-op members, and perhaps only 500 or 1,000 of the 10,000 shareholders are as yet aware of it. Consequently, this page is one good way to give the portion of those shareholders who use the Wiki (a) more information and (b) a chance to freely comment. What was your problem with it? — DougWalter

    It would have put the co-op in violation of some commerce clause. It's illegal to participate in boycotting another nation if you are a US store so sayeth the Fed ~SD

2010-01-21 01:39:13   I support this action. —PxlAted

2010-01-25 07:29:05   Is it not a bit arrogant for Davis to think about boycotting Israeli products, while Egypt , Jordan, and the Palestinians in the West Bank are doing the opposite, and are actively trading with and buying from Israel on a daily basis?? (Please click on the following links:,

  • Plus, doesn't it seem a little unreasonable to boycott a whole country because of the actions of its government? If the Co-Op is buying Israeli goods whose proceeds go straight to funding bullets for soldiers at checkpoints in Palestine, that might be one thing. —KenjiYamada
    • My personal belief is that boycotts can be part of an effective strategy for change; as a tactic, they've proven effective in situations less direct than buying this directly funds that weapon. The Food Co-op buys nothing directly from Israel; everything is imported and distributed to the store by American companies. I don't think that makes a big difference for most people considering this issue, but those are the facts if it does. —DougWalter

2010-01-25 09:02:55   rlibet makes a very good point, people here tend to have a very weird perspective. Until the 90s Pepsi and Coke had a very bizarre boycott situation between Israel, the US, and the Arab countries. I oppose the boycott. —NickSchmalenberger

2010-01-26 08:10:06   Do not want. If this passes no more co-op for me. —OliviaY

  • Ditto. I also note that the above is a very one-sided characterization of a long and complicated series of events in the Middle East. —CovertProfessor

2010-01-26 10:27:25   Not that I patronize this place anyway, though I suppose technically I am still a shareholder, but yeah, if they joined an all Israeli goods boycott I certainly would plan to stay far, far away permanently. Punishing all the citizens and businesses of a nation for the policies of its government especially given the long history and complex nature of this conflict frankly smacks of racism IMO. —rfrazier

2010-01-26 14:53:20   Kudos to the group who is working on this effort for human rights in Davis. The boycott, divestment, sanctions movement to end Israel's human rights violations is growing all over the world, including in Israel: As all who work for human rights know, there is resistance to change — many whites in the U.S. south opposed the civil rights movement and many whites in South Africa opposed the efforts to end apartheid there. Both of these human rights movements were successful and whites in the U.S. south and in South Africa are doing just fine. —Marsha

2010-01-26 15:11:48   Doug,

If this group gets the necessary number of signatures, what is the next step? I would happily vote against such an initiative. This is an simplistic gesture towards a very complicated situation. —ScottWeintraub

  • Scott, if the signatures of five percent of shareholders are verified on their initiative (and their deadline has now been set at March 9) then the arguments for and against it will be due April 2 and shareholders will vote from approximately April 26 through May 28. So you will probably have your chance, not to mention the fun of posting on the DavisWiki and (if you choose), the Election Bulletin Board in the store. DougWalter
    • Subsequent to the Board resolution of 2/5/10, declaring that the Board of Directors will not be putting the current petition on the ballot, the collection of signatures has been suspended. The proponents and opponents of the BDS movement are still tabling on the Co-op Patio (as of mid-February). —DougWalter
      • I am glad to hear that the Co-op board made this decision. As one recent letter to the editor in the Enterprise suggested, the vote would have made many people feel unwelcome at the co-op, regardless of its outcome. —CovertProfessor

2010-02-21 13:40:25   Glad to hear that the current petition will not (as of now) be on the ballot. I have been a Davis Food Co-Op member for over 5 years...if this comes to a vote and passes I'll be gone. I love the Co-Op, but this is ridiculous. I support my Jewish friends and family. I also support my Palestinian friends and community members. This is not the answer—passing this "initiative" would send an unproductive message of hate. —EmilyHughes

2/24/10 —This boycott initiative is definitely not about influencing Israel or helping Palestinians. Come on !! Who will notice?? The initiative is completely self-serving, ( it may make some people fell better about themselves) , and is: 1) VAGUE —- It includes a condition that Israel “end its occupation and colonization of all Palestinian lands..." What do they mean by "Palestinian lands"? Are they referring to (just) the West Bank and Gaza? If so, they are conveniently ignoring that Israel pulled out of every square inch of Gaza 4.5 years ago, (and literally pulled out settlers one by one as well). Or are they also referring to Jaffa, Acre, and the southern Galilee? Or, (as I am quite sure), are they referring to all of Israel? 2) A NIGHTMARE (for the Co-Op’s Board to enforce) —- the resolution states that the Co-Op “will refrain from supporting companies that sell Israel and which are used to violate the human rights of Palestinians.” Is the Board to pass judgement on whether, directly or indirectly, a product of Intel , Coca-Cola, General Mills, etc., was used to violate human rights? And who is to determine what constitutes a “human rights violation”? This is untenable. 3) ONE-SIDED —- The resolution focuses on the Palestinian refugees, (approximately 650,000 — in 1948) and makes no mention of the SAME NUMBER of Jewish refugees who were forced to flee from Moslem countries , (1949-1951, primarily), or the 600,000 or more Jewish refugees from Europe and its Holocaust. And why are we not boycotting China and Russia, (brutal occupiers of Tibet and Chechnya), or perhaps the U.S. (for colonization of Native American lands, and/or the killing of Iraqi civilians)?? Why no blaming of Jordan and Egypt for NOT creating a Palestinian state during the 19 years THEY controlled the West Bank and Gaza?? 4) UNREALISTIC —- The “right of ...return” of all the descendants of the Palestinian refugees would mean the end of Israel and will not be a component of a future peace agreement , (....and therefore we could still be boycotting long after a there is a two-state solution, with peace in the region, since that will happen without fulfilling the “conditions” of this initiative). Ralph Libet

2010-03-01 13:15:58   I am completely against this boycott because I feel it is one-sided, racist, and just supports the kind of double standard that Israel is held up to. I do not see boycotts going up against Japan for their whale "researching" or against Russian or Chinese goods for their true occupation of Chechnya and Tibetan territories, respectively. So why try to punish Israel when it has been trying to make headway at peace for the past 20 years? Isn't that a bit counter-intuitive? As I do not want to ramble, I will just say I completely agree with Ralph Libet and CovertProfessor. I will really lose respect for the Davis community if this boycott, or any boycott against Israel in any other store goes through. Do some research, do some reading, and take a look at the current facts and the recent historical FACTS, and not the propaganda issued forth because frankly it would be sad to see this boycott passed on the basis of Israel needing to release "occupied" lands and needing to stop violating human rights that would not have occurred had certain actions been taken by other Arab countries. —DP2010

2010-03-02 22:29:06   I've stayed out of this whole thing because, frankly, it's not worth my trouble, but I felt it very amusing that the link just posted, at davisbds, says that one of the possible causes for the dropping of the initiative is that people threatened to boycott the Co-op, which would be "bullying tactics", to use their own words. On a page that is in support of a boycott... —JoePomidor

2010-03-16 18:03:35   Dear all,

So the corporate monoculture of DFC, Inc., rears its head.

Basically all this verbiage boils down to saying "we don't like the boycott because it's 'political' in a manner we find disagreeable—perhaps for unstated political reasons of our own—and so we're willing to supersede the bylaws to take a membership initiative off the ballot."

Now, before launching into some criticism, I should say the DFC is certainly more than 'just' a corporation; it's a hybrid of corporate and co-operative principles, with community-related customs lumped in (e.g., superworking). Nevertheless, in my (6 years experience, and two bids for the board), it seems the DFC's co-operative principles are becoming increasingly overshadowed, policy-wise, by corporate laws and institutional practices (e.g., policy governance).

If the DFC were truly "democratically controlled" and not just putting this label up as a pretense to hide corporate self-interest, it would accept the fact that sometimes democratic initiatives can be problematic on many levels; sometimes 'democracy' veers into ochlocracy, or 'mob rule,' and we get some pretty dumb proposals; and sometimes 'democracy' can bring in needed grassroots change to overthrow overcenteralized powers (the DFC seems one such power, at times); so I urge the membership to avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water on this issue. If the board's counter-measure (as stipulated below) were approved, a clear precedent would be set for the Co-op as being no longer truly democratic, and all future membership initiatives, no matter how benign or progressive, may be warded off, curtailed from the start by unnecessary red-tape. And let's face it: the DFC hasn't had any membership initiatives that have passed in ages! I would hope, if nothing else, the boycott group (whose agendas I'm not interested in, per se) at least has a chance to respond to each point, before the board can preempt its right to put a measure on the ballot.

To add a somewhat anecdotal yet relevant aside, my landlady here in New Zealand, of Jewish descent, has been boycotting Israeli products for a long time, on general ethical grounds on par with boycotting certain types of chocolate that exploit labor in the Ivory Coast, and she's not entirely anti-Zionist herself, at least not in terms of its ideals, but she disavows Israeli political practices, including its means-justify-the-ends history of oppressing the Palestinian peoples (her perspective, not mine; it's a complicated issue, to be sure!). So when I told her about this initiative, some months back, she was surprised there was so much hubbub over it, because, as she said at the time, it's common practice to boycott Israeli products here in NZ, and has been for a long while, at least among co-operatives and wholefood grocers. She added, in passing, that Davis must be truly parochial if there's such a reactionary response, as there seems to be, indeed. (And I am not putting words in her mouth—I was as neutral and cautious in my wording of the matter as I could possibly be, given its potential sensitivity, and not knowing where she would stand—no 'suggestibility' came from me, to mention one of Schacter's useful "seven sins of memory").

So, we need to step back from this issue and not treat it as another "hot button" culture war type problem, and look at it more from a democratic policy standpoint. I think it's time for members truly interested in DFC's core democratic values as a CO-OPERATIVE, and not a CORPORATION-in-co-op-clothing, to step forward and protect this boycott measure, not for what it stands for, politically, but for its right to exist as a membership driven initiative. If it got the signatures, it deserves to be on the ballot. Period. You can't change the rules of the game when centralized powers don't like what's happening with the old rules. That's autocracy, not democracy.

And it's ironic, I should add, how the board suddenly comes to life, comes into a position of strength, when it's in the interest of the DFC administration for it to do so. The irony of this should not be lost on anyone familiar with DFC's history, and the difficulty of the board to get anything through the administration-corporate firewall.

If the initiative is pernicious, or 'politically biased' or not 'neutral' (a vague notion that could conflict with food ethics in general, on another plane), the membership ought to know and be educated about what makes the initiative problematic, or un-cooperative. The membership at large should be educated with neutral statements for and against, and decide on their own druthers whether to vote for this boycott or not, and perhaps have a disinterested party write up the for and against statements. That's the democratic process. What's undemocratic is an underhanded, inside-track preemption method like what I'm seeing in the board's reaction, which, again, fits the definition of an autocracy more than a democracy (and if their resolution passes, the autocratic precedent will unambiguously violate core Co-op principles, to boot; but if there is no de jure conflict, then there is no problem, as far as the DFC as a corporate entity is concerned, and that is something everyone should understand).

In sum, this is neither a pro nor con stance regarding the boycott, but a statement about democratic policy. If DFC's co-operative principles can be trumped based on corporate law alone, then people need to wake up to the reality that the Co-op is not really a co-operative, functionally, but a comparatively better (because alternative, 'green,' and community oriented) grocery store that's been Co-opted itself by what could be perceived as a dynastic centralized power with little interest in Co-op principles, on their own (unless they suit their desire to remain unchallenged; i.e., I was waving the banner of the Rochdale Principles when I ran, but no one seemed to care about them then; but now they're brandished in this resolution). I feel uneasy saying the latter, admittedly, because I like the administration (Doug et al.) on an individual basis, but what I say here seems the sad reality behind the appearance. The present admin may run things well enough, keep up community-oriented projects I admire, promote superworking, etc., but what will happen when this administration leaves, and others step in with the same autocratic power structure in place? Much that even the present administration takes for granted, morally, institutionally, etc., may be overridden.

Respectfully, ZN

2010-03-16 19:26:32   I am a secular Jew, a practicing Buddhist, and a moderate political liberal. I am glad that the Board rejected the proposed boycott of goods from Israel. Others have well articulated the reasons why imposing this boycott against Israel would constitute a blatant double standard and why the history of modern Palestine-Israel shows that the situation is not a black and white one with respect to blame. I do find very offensive the phrase "sovereign Jewish nation of Israel" to describe that country. To me the justification for the founding of the nation was the need for a place of refuge for the Jews who suffered in the Holocaust and persecution elsewhere (including in the Arab nations). On the other hand, to the extent that Israel is today governed as a semi-theocracy (through the political power of the fundamentalists) regarding itself as a "Jewish nation", denies equal rights to non-Jewish immigrants, or seeks to expand beyond the post 1967 borders, I am totally out of synch with Israel. I am very upset by those members of the Jewish community (such as AIPAC) and members of the Christian religious right) who seek to give Israel a blank check while providing substantial financial support to that country including taxpayers’ dollars. However, this one-sided boycott attempt seems to me to be a thoughtless tactic of the fundamentalists of the extreme political left, cheered on by KPFA and the like without regard to the subtleties of the problem. I’m happy that it has bitten the dust. —MusawwirSpiegel

  • Heya Musawwir. I admire your stance (as usual) on such matters, but in this case, do you think overriding the bylaws is an appropriate response? Why can't the membership vote this down? I'm not familiar with the KPFA myself, but sometimes more radical movements can proffer something worth considering, and without knowing what the KPFA stands for, I can't judge the issue on that alone (perhaps I'm revealing my ignorance by saying this, which is part of my point: we need to keep the membership at large abreast on all these issues, rather than surreptitiously preempt a measure that follows the bylaw guidelines, setting a bad precedent for future initiatives). But for me, again, it's not a political problem; it's a democratic policy problem. What the board is doing here (overriding a legitimate membership initiative) is going about things the wrong way. -Z
    • I believe KPFA just refers to the Berkeley radio station. :P But listen to yourself — "we need to keep the membership at large abreast on all these issues" ?! You need to be steeped in decades (some would say thousands of years!) of Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to be an active member of a food co-op? (Anything less than that, and you don't know what you're talking about). Can't you see how crazy that is, and how far out of its purview this proposal was? —cp
      • I was not suggesting we all need to read everything under the sun about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (just as I wouldn't say for every general election issue we need expert knowledge on the subject before voting). That would be silly, indeed. I was merely suggesting that if something goes on the ballot, the membership ought to have as much information as possible, and perhaps a means of carrying out their own additional research, so they can inform themselves before voting, and I imagine many of them already have studied up on these things (DFC members are smart people, in my experience). So my comment was more about how to handle ballot initiatives, democratically and in general, not about giving everyone a very particular history lesson. -ZN
        • And my point is that without the history lesson, one would not be in the position to vote. This is not a simple issue. One shouldn't be required to learn geo-politics — or to take a stand on them — in order to belong to a food co-op. —cp
          • Hrm. I'm not sure paternalism is the right response here. People can do their own research on this issue. But my problem is not with the politics of the issue itself, but with overriding the bylaws to circumvent what is perceived as a problematic initiative. But if the initiative has garnered the votes, it should go on. And people should be informed about any ulterior motives (if there are any); that's the nature of the democratic, political beast, I’m afraid. And as soon as you start chipping away at this, you start chipping away at democracy proper. I agree it is not a simple issue. But circumventing the bylaws undemocratically is a straightforward issue, on its own. -Z
            • I'm not arguing for paternalism. I'm arguing for keeping politics — especially complicated politics — out of a food co-op where it doesn't belong, which is one of the points that the board made in its statement. And who are you accusing of having "ulterior motives" (and on what evidence)? —cp
              • First, please try to avoid making this a personal issue. Using charged language like 'accusing,' and assuming I have some 'crazy' suggestion from the start, gets things off track. I don’t want to have to defend myself against every possible projection you may have about my supposed intentions. That said, I meant to say "if" there are any ulterior motives, people should know about them (with regard to the organization promoting the boycott, which I know little about). I actually sent them a letter, early on, trying to get them to share what their motives were, and to take into consideration possible long-term effects on membership initiatives, if they behaved badly, and I got no response. So I really do not know. Again, my motives are directed at the board's action vis-à-vis the bylaws, and how this is all consistent with some of my previous bad experiences with co-op administration and policy. Please don't try to derail my intentions into some personal battle, because I want no part of that. -Z
                • Ok, I think we're done. I've made no personal remarks about you and said nothing about your intentions. You brought up "ulterior motives," not me — and yes, when you say something like that, you've made an accusation. And you said that people need to be informed about the political groups involved in order to vote, not me (I added that it would take quite a bit to be truly informed about the political situation). —cp
                  • *sigh* There must be a lot of background anxiety around the subject that I am not privy to, because I was not trying to be personal with my comments, but was responding to what seemed accusatory defensiveness on your part. If I mistakenly read that, I apologize. You did not ask what I meant by possible ulterior motives on behalf of the boycott group—I was merely echoing Musawwir's concern. I certainly was not suggesting you have ulterior motives! I explained what I meant about needing to be informed before voting, so that should no longer be an issue, and I clarified where my critical focus lies, so if I am already misunderstood so quick in the exchange, I must presume, because I am out of context, I cannot understand where you’re coming from. But I won't close off. If you have some legitimate, argument based criticism of my letter, I would be glad to discuss it with you, but I would rather not have to defend myself against personally charged language, that’s all. —Z
                    • We're definitely miscommunicating . I didn't think that you were accusing me of having ulterior motives, but you were pretty clearly suggesting that some of those directly involved in the proposed boycott "might" have ulterior motives. So, I asked your what your basis was for that accusation. In any case, I think we can be clear now that I was not insulting you and you were not insulting me. As for our disagreement, I think we've both stated our positions. You think that extremely complex politics are appropriate waters for co-ops to wade into, and I do not. I don't think there is anything further to be said. —cp
                      • Yes, I agree. This seems consistent with miscommunication, because I was only meaning to address Musawwir's concern that the group itself is part of the problem, and was puzzled by your response, which seemed tangential. I.e., I do not understand how my echoing Musawwir's concern could be an instance of "accusation." "Accusation" seems a rather loaded choice of diction for an innocuous acknowledgment of some possible problem with the boycott group. I do not know if there are problems with the group. That's just my point: I do not have any evidence, because I am not ensconced in this issue at the level of political philosophy, nor am I privy to the boycott group's history. I am taking a neutral stance regarding the claims of the boycott, and focusing instead, more productively, on the policy ramifications of what the board is doing in response. I do not presume, as you seem to suggest I do, that by allowing this membership initiative to go on the ballot that automatically means the co-op is taking on complex political issues. A democratic system that says 'x # of signatures allows a membership initiative to go on the ballot' remains neutral about the contents, and if a group fulfills the bylaw requirements to put up a membership initiative, the DFC does not therefore advocate the contents of the group's initiative in any way. I.e., by analogy, let us assume the initiative is about boycotting all chocolate sources that have any ties with military juntas or documented labor exploitation in the Ivory Coast. This also is a complicated political issue, with many perspectival elements. It's not as complicated as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, granted, but it's still a good analogy for my purposes. Now, if this hypothetical boycott of the Ivory Coast initiative made it onto the ballot, would it follow, by default, that the DFC is somehow complicit in advocating the stance of the initiative itself? No. That's not the function of the DFC board or administration. It may very well be the case that adding stipulations to the bylaws are needed to mitigate possible abuse of the DFC is apolitical sounding board. But this can be done without undermining the democratic control principle.
  • I have no real standpoint on the issue, but it sounds to me like Zachary is just saying (and I'm inclined to agree) that it's procedurally inappropriate for the board to set aside a properly initiated motion—no matter ill conceived. Even if the members are unlikely to understand enough about the issue to make an informed decision on the vote, I'm inclined to agree that it's not the board's place to make that judgment. That's not their role. At the risk of being obnoxious as hell given the topic, I've gotta say: it just doesn't seem kosher. —TomGarberson

2010-03-17 01:10:55   I don't know the rules governing the board, so I'm taking a bit of a guess here. But in general, such a board would have the responsibility to act in the best interests of the Co-Op. They had several choices.

-They could allow the motion to get onto the ballot, which might upset a large percentage of their members and involve them in a political issue not related to the Food Co-Op. If it passed, they might be boycotted by people who disagreed with the motion. If it did not, they might be boycotted by a much smaller group of people. They, or the Co-Op, might have been sued by their members regardless of whether the motion passed or not. Either way, that would not be in the best interests of the Co-Op.

-They could deny the motion. This only works if there is some justification for doing so under whatever rules they are bound by. If successful, this has the advantage of keeping the Co-Op out of a political fight, which is arguably in the best interests of the Co-Op.

They chose the second option, and appear to have done so in a way that justifies that they have followed the Co-Op's rules, thus protecting both the Co-Op and themselves legally (or so I would imagine). Whether or not you agree with that decision, it is most likely the only one that they could actually make that would provide legal protection for the Co-Op.


  • I'd like to see what the board thinks it is protecting itself against, legally, by breaking its own legally ratified bylaws. There's a contradiction here. And as someone said on the leadership email list recently, "if it is true that the co-op is being threatened in order to keep this measure off the ballot, I find that highly problematic and would call on Board members to seriously discount those views as they aren't secure enough to stand on their own merits." —ZN
    • I could have sworn that the board stated that they kept the item off the ballot because boycotting Israel is illegal. Edit: Yup. They said that in their February 7 resolution. They stated that the boycott would be illegal. The referenced the bylaw that says measures must have a lawful purpose. Since the boycott is unlawful, they were actually prohibited from letting it be on the ballot and they are not breaking their bylaws. If you don't like it, you should call up your federal representatives and ask them to repeal the anti-boycott laws (which I agree are stupid). —wl
      • Interesting. I am ignorant of all the legal positions on this, so I find it all rather baffling, and counterintuitive. I would think a legally sovereign entity could pass its own laws, but it makes sense that any law, passed under the auspices of a sovereign institution, is nevertheless theoretically vulnerable to some type of counter-litigation (casinos on Indian reservations come to mind). A cursory search online suggests that it is in fact illegal in the United States to ban Israeli products, at present. I'm a literary humanist, not a lawyer (said in a Star Trek doctor tone), so I don't have time to do more thorough research on the matter, but the link defiantly helped. Thanks. NOTE: here's a possible compromise: the board could allow the measure to go on the ballot, under one set of laws (the bylaws), and then not comply with the initiative, if passed, under another set of laws (the anti-boycott laws linked above, assuming they apply to this situation). Why can't this work? It would allow the membership to keep their voice, whether the initiative passes or not, and it would buffer the co-op from violating the boycott laws. -Z

2010-03-30 13:34:32   I don't think that this group is really serious about human rights. If they were, they should be proposing boycotts of the worst offenders. Our time would be much better spent considering a boycott of all Chinese products:

  • Logically this is misleading, though pragmatically—or from a broad, utilitarian vantage—you are likely correct. I.e., it would be logically incorrect to tell a union lobbying against labor exploitation within their particular company that they are not serious about labor rights simply because they are focusing all of their efforts on the company and not other, more serious offenders. Thus, one group's potentially legitimate claims against a certain type of transgression cannot be discredited on the grounds that every other type of transgression of the same kind must be addressed. This type of logic (or red herring) would have us ignore campaigns against the harmful effects of smoking because these campaigns do not address all the other types of harmful substances, like heroin, or that because car accidents are responsible for more deaths than smoking cigarettes, we should focus on car accidents and not cigarette smoking. On the other hand, a general assessment of "worst offenders" when it comes to civil rights abuses may rank China above Israel, but we would also have to look at how other countries are exploitative in the same kind of way, and so we could get caught up in a type of regress and lose focus. So each group with its own identified civil rights issue should have its say, I think. -Z