Hoping to participate in the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, members of the Davis Food Co-op are petitioning for an initiative to boycott all Israeli products from the grocery store.
The Davis Committee for Palestinian Rights has localized this campaign.
The non-violent campaign was initiated in 2005 and pro-Palestinian organizations from around the world joined. Their aim is to put political and economic pressure on Israel for, what they deem violations of human, civil and political rights toward the Palestinian people.
The store management is not affiliated with the initiative.
“The Co-op does not support or endorse this boycott and wants to make clear it is being organized by members using their rights given in the bylaws,” said Co-op General Manager Eric Stromberg.
Mikos Fabersunne, a coordinator for the Davis Committee for Palestinian Rights, said grassroots movements such as this boycott will help change policies toward this issue.
“The boycott is aligned with the BDS campaign to put pressure on Israel’s economy,” he said. “People have to act on this opportunity to help change the egregious behavior of the Israeli government. The campaign won’t end until [Israel complies] with international law.”
The Co-op sells a small number of Israeli products, including wine, a brand of feta cheese and couscous.
The Co-op is owned and operated by 10,000 shareholders. Its bylaws allow members to decide what to vote on during annual elections.
Five percent of this governing body must sign the petition in order for it to appear on the store’s May ballot. The Davis Committee for Palestinian Rights has been collecting signatures since Jan. 1.
Fabersunne believes the necessary 500 signatures will easily be reached before the March deadline.
Stromberg said the members’ vote can be deemed advisory and not binding if its provisions do not qualify under a legal and proper purpose. The Co-op is reviewing the validity of this boycott initiative because of the possible complications.
“For example, the Co-op sells an olive oil manufactured in the West Bank that is exported through Israel,” Stromberg said. “This boycott requires us to stop selling their product, in turn, hurting Palestinian workers.”
In response to this problem, Fabersunne believes this is part of the process to achieve the overall goal – restoring a free and independent Palestinian state.
“Although this might not seem like a hard hitting strategy, it comes in steps,” Fabersunne said.
Fabersunne said there is substantial change needed.
“Our efforts add another straw to the pile supporting the global community that condemns Israeli action towards the Palestinians,” he said.
Others strongly oppose this boycott because they feel it undermines the state of Israel and is filled with half-truths, according to Karen Firestein, Co-President of Congregation Bet Haverim. Yolo County’s primary Jewish organization, the congregation represents a large portion of Co-op shareholders.
“If the Co-op becomes a political tool for those who want to commandeer it for ideological reasons, it will no longer be able to serve the entire Davis community,” Firestein said in a written statement.
The Davis Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East is also opposed to the boycott and is soliciting signatures for a counter-petition.
Doug Walter, Membership Director of the Co-op, believes the shareholders have strict criteria in selecting products, and moving forward with the boycott will have wide implications.
“We respect and recognize the voters who support this boycott, but anything that proposes to drop items for reasons past product quality makes things complicated,” Walter said. “This directly engages us into an international relations debate.”
Students for Justice in Palestine support the boycott and encourage members to take action.
“There is an image of Israel that has been preserved by the ignorance of their policies,” said SJP president Geoffrey Wildanger. “This boycott brings attention to the facts and should cease when Israel is no longer an apartheid state.”
MICHAEL STEPANOV can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.