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Davis, California

Friday, May 24, 2024

Controversy surrounding Israeli, Palestinian conflict finds its way into a Davis grocery store

Members of the Davis Food Co-op want the grocery store to boycott Israeli goods in response to what they call, a pattern of severe human rights violations perpetrated by the Israeli government against the beleaguered Palestinian population that also inhabits the country.

Many Davis Co-op customers enjoy partial ownership of the Davis Food Co-op. After paying a fee, Co-op members can cast votes to elect board members and decide company policy.

The group of shareholders calling for the boycott has joined with an international movement called the Boycott Disinvest Sanction (BDS), which began in the occupied Palestinian territories in Israel and has since become an international grass roots movement.

On Sunday night, a Davis-based organization called the Davis Peace Coalition held a public debate at the Davis Veteran’s Memorial Theatre. UC Davis International Relations Professor Zeev Maoz argued against the boycott. Maoz is an Israeli citizen who teaches and specializes in Middle East studies and international conflict. Maoz debated Omar Barghouti., a Palestinian graduate student at Tel Aviv University in Israel and founding member of the BDS movement.

The Davis branch of the BDS successfully collected enough signatures from shareholders to bring the initiative to vote in the 2010 Co-op ballots but has met resistance from the Co-op board, which acts as the store’s legislative body.

Mikos Fabersunne, a Co-op member who has joined with BDS in calling for the boycott, criticized the board’s reluctance to introduce the legislation.

“This flies in the face of numerous Co-op principles … It is very clear that the Co-op is responsible to its members,” he said, adding that he understood the board was afraid of losing sales but that it is important to allow the boycott to come to a vote because of the democratic nature with which the store’s policy is decided.

Many Co-op members oppose the boycott. Some disagree with BDS about the Israeli role in the 60-year old conflict with Palestinians. Other members simply do not feel that the Davis Food Co-op is the right venue for political expression. Ralph Libet is one such member.

“I would say that looking at it from a practical perspective I don’t think it’s going to help anyone – not any of the Palestinians in Israel,” he said, explaining that nobody in Israel will even notice one small grocery store’s boycott in the U.S. He added that the issue will only create a divisive atmosphere in Davis.

“It’s not a healthy policy for a health food store,” he said.

The debate drew a crowd that nearly filled the small theatre. There were several picketers from a group called “Stand With Us Campus” who were protesting the boycott and the Sunday debate. They distributed a flier accusing the debate coordinators of not fairly representing the pro-Israel side.

“A panel consisting of one Palestinian and one far-left Israeli guarantees an unbalanced discussion … this is a propaganda event disguised as a debate,” the flier read.

Inside the theatre the crowd was well behaved and respectful to the speakers, though at one point the host had to instruct several audience members to refrain from applauding until after the debate was officially over.

Maoz and Barghouti each had fifteen minutes to speak and then got two rebuttals. Barghouti began by mentioning the 2009 Goldstone report. The report was a United Nations-sponsored study of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. It found that both sides in the conflict were guilty of war crimes but largely focused on Israel’s misconduct. However, the report was condemned by the Israeli and U.S. governments as being one-sided. Barghouti explained that Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories amounts to what he called a slow genocide.

“With its latest aggression Israel has unleashed a huge wave of violence. Most conditions in the occupied territories conform to the U.N. definitions of ethnic cleansing,” he said.

Barghouti explained that the ultimate goal of BDS is similar to the disinvestment campaign that was launched against South Africa during the apartheid years. The campaign eventually turned the government in South Africa into a pariah state.

Maoz introduced himself as a former Israeli soldier that fought in three wars and also served in the Palestinian territories.

“I am a supporter of a two state solution,” Maoz said, referring to the long discussed possibility that Palestinians could form a nation independent of Israel. “I am also a citizen of a democratic society. Whenever I have not been in a uniform I have participated in the peace movement.”

He added that disinvestment in Israel would hurt the Palestinians first since the economy in the occupied territories is completely dependent on Israel.

“Whenever the Israelis have felt pressure it has made the situation worse for Palestinians” Maoz said, adding that negotiations were the best solution and that the BDS movement is unfairly demonizing Israel.

Maoz explained that there is no such thing as a good military occupation, but that Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians have aggravated the conflict making it harder for the sides to reach an agreement.

Both debaters agreed that the discussion was productive and that it was important to keep dialogue open even if the subject is a painful one.

SAMUEL A. COHEN can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


  1. “slow genocide.”

    He’s kidding right? The population has quadrupled under Israel’s “brutal and genocidal” occupation. The birthrate in Gaza is one of the highest in the world.

    In fact, the first thing Israel did after it acquired Gaza from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan was vaccinate the children in the territories. Under Israel’s policy of “slow genocide” polio, measles, mumps and diphtheria were wiped out.

    Damned incompetant Israels – they have their genocide machine stuck in reverse!

  2. The coverage lost some credibility by opening with: “Members of the Davis Food Co-op want the grocery store to boycott Israeli goods.” From what I have heard, it’s just SOME members — and a small minority at that.

    Meanwhile, Barghouti lost ALL credibility when he described it as a “slow genocide.” Considering that the Palestinian population is growing rather rapidly, this is apparently going to be the slowest “genocide” in history. Genocide is when a population is drastically reduced – on its way to extinction. Jews know what a genocide really is. For Palestinian terrorism apologists, it’s just a rhetorical button to push.

  3. What a distorted and misleading lead! It is absolutely incorrect to refer to a “beleaguered Palestinian population that also inhabits the country.” The boycott concerns Palestinians resident in the West Bank and Gaza, not the country Israel. (There are other Palestinians who are resident citizens of Israel proper, with full rights.) With acceptance of a two-state solution with full recognition of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians can have their own state and the ability to coexist peacefully with Israel. The basic premise of the boycott effort is entirely different: to discredit the legitimacy of Israel as an independent nation with a largely Jewish population.

  4. Fatima you are amazing. It is young people like you who will be the catalysts of peace and freedom in Israel and Palestine. I hope you were able to attend the meeting to give your very wise opinion. But if not, I hope you continue to bring your message into the conversations about Israel and Palestine. (This comment is not sarcastic at all). I am really humbled and proud of your comment. Bravo.

  5. Why is Israel always under negative microscopic scrutiny like no other country? Why is a double standard applied to Israel? When does “anti-Zionism”, become simply racism against Jews and the Jewish state? Natan Sharansky described the “Three Ds”, de-legitimization, double standards, and demonization. The mis-use of the legal term of art,”Apartheid” to describe the Arab-Israeli conflict and its aftermath is simply,libelous and “demonization”as per Sharansky. “Apartheid” requires an intent to discriminate base on “race.” Old South Africa made it clear that this was the intent and the practice. In stark contrast, Israel’s expresed intent, and as practiced, is based on securing the safety of its citizens from Palestinian attacks. It seems to me that this is just another effort to demonize Israel by using vocabulary selected for the words emotional impact value rather than its true meaning.

  6. A boycott will hurt Pelestinians as well as Israelis. There are so many businesses in Israel that employ both, including Tefen, Babcom and New diesel biofuel:

    Stef Wertheimer has a vision that economic prosperity will spark peace for all people in Israel and the region. To that end, he has created Tefen, an industrial park in the Galilee region that boasts high-quality schools and spurs business ventures and creativity for industry. At Tefen Jews, Arabs and Druze work side by side as they realize their common goals. Built in 1982, it is one of four industrial parks created by Wertheimer that bring in a combined $1 billion in revenue, proving that co-existence can be a powerful business model.
    “When people work together, they have no time for nonsense,” Wertheimer has said. “They work together, not against each other.”

    Want to outsource your call and customer service centers? Want to fuel a little Middle East peace? Instead of working with India, consider the services of Babcom. Based in the Galilee region, Babcom hires a significant number of Israeli Arabs and trains them as call center managers who work for both local and international companies. Functioning as a strategic partner, Babcom provides a cost-effective service for companies worldwide.
    Co-founded in 2008 by Imad Telhami and Delta’s Dov Lautman, Babcom was set up to meet its customers’ long-term goals and to provide customer call services in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Russian. The company works with large cellular providers in Israel.

    Initiated by the Peres Center for Peace, MME New Diesel, a new Jordanian-Israeli company, is using German-made technology to create biofuel from biomass waste. Biomass waste is quite a problem in the region, with excessive amounts of agriculture-based organic matter building up in Jordan, Israel and within the Palestinian Authority. This new company plans on repurposing it into biofuel and squeezing out a little peace at the same time. The new pilot facility will be built in Israel’s Arava Desert where it can strategically serve all three communities.

    Yes, a boycott is a thoughtless way to hurt those you are trying to help. This boycott is based on hate. This Arab says No to boycotts. And no to Hate

  7. “It’s not a healthy policy for a health food store,”

    Damn straight.

    If the petitioners don’t want to buy Israeli couscous, they don’t have to buy Israeli couscous.

    Nothing gives them the right to impose their politics on thousands of people who just aren’t interested.

    Whats Next? Boycott China because of Tibet?
    Boycott America because of Iraq?
    Will there be anything left to buy if we scrutinize every country under a microscope, the way they scrutinize Israel?

    It will never end. Let me buy the groceries I want, you buy the groceries you want. Then every one is happy.

  8. “Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian graduate student at Tel Aviv University in Israel and founding member of the BDS movement” Mr. Barghouti’s mere presence flies in the face of everything anti-Israeli activists want you to believe. They claim Israel is an apartheid state that is commits human rights violations against the Palestinian people. Yet here is a Palestinian who is studying at Tel Aviv University and is even permitted to start an anti-Israel movement while there! Unbelievable.


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