For over a month the Davis Food Co-op has been at the center of controversy over activists’ efforts to boycott Israeli products at the grocery store on 620 G St.
A group of the store’s shareholders have joined the Boycott Divest Sanction, an organization that seeks sanctions against Israel in retaliation for what they call systematic human rights abuses against Palestinian Arabs in the region.
Co-op members who buy into the store become partial owners and may vote on the grocery store’s policies. The Co-op members who had aligned with BDS recently sought to use their voting power to establish a boycott of Israeli goods at the store.
The boycott initiative was met with resistance from other Co-op members as well as pro-Israel political organizations. On Feb. 5 the Co-op’s board of directors, which acts as the store’s legislative body, unanimously voted against allowing the boycott initiative to come to popular vote in the store’s 2010 election.
Steve Reynolds, president of the Co-op’s board of directors, said the boycott movement was not in the store’s best interest because Co-op principals preclude the market from becoming involved in politics.
“Just as an individual and not representing [the whole] board of directors, [the BDS initiative] is illegal and improper and is far too divisive within the community,” Reynolds said.
BDS will continue its disinvestment campaign against Israel regardless of the Co-op board of directors’ decision, said BDS member Mikos Fabersunne. BDS is planning leaflet campaigns and has also filed a formal dispute to overturn the Co-op board’s decision, an action allowed in the grocery store’s by-laws.
BDS is also planning to work with UC Davis students in an attempt to cancel a study abroad program to Israel. The program focuses on Arab-Israeli relations from World War I to the present, the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and comparing narratives of the Palestinians, the Arab States and Israel, according to the program description.
Fabersunne said that the study abroad program to Israel exposes students to a slanted version of the region’s history. According to Fabersunne, the program’s cancellation would also align with BDS’ support of a general academic boycott against Israel.
UCD professor Zeev Maoz, who leads the university’s study abroad program, said that it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the issue of whether or not the program presented a biased view since students who attend the program should make that judgment.
“These kinds of accusations of bias come from both the pro-Israel side and BDS, so I must be doing something right,” Maoz said.
Maoz explained that his approach is to expose students to a wide range of figures involved in the peace process, including Palestinian and Israeli academics as well as policy makers.
“It is my hope that BDS would encourage people to travel to Israel so that they could see for themselves,” Maoz said in regards to the conflict.
SAMUEL A. COHEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.