Here are some observations on the Olympia Food Co-op boycott controversy described in the Nov. 11 issue of JTNews (“Israel critics use courts to protect their speech”).
I attended the public meeting in Olympia before the board vote and along with others was given a chance to speak against the boycott. No decision was reached at that meeting. Some time later, the board met in closed session and emerged with the boycott in place. No appeal process was offered.
Elated with being the first in the country to boycott Israeli products, the organizers moved their show to Port Townsend. They had chosen their targets well, or so they thought: Small communities, little or no organized Jewish activity, far from the resources based in Seattle, “progressive” populations leaning toward support of the Palestinians.
I went along with fellow Israel supporter Jack Greenberg and again was allowed to speak. The board was seated at a table set up on the stage. After comments from the audience they passed the microphone around and discussed the proposal in full view and hearing of those concerned. What a concept! When the discussion ended they voted right then and there. The motion to boycott was defeated 3-2.
Meanwhile, back in Olympia, a once-cohesive community was being torn apart. I was told that lifelong friends were not speaking anymore. There was the stench of betrayal in the air. I know that one of the plaintiffs now filing to overturn the Olympia boycott originally supported it, but after listening closely to the views of the other supporters she came to see that what they were after was not a return of Israel to the 1967 lines, but the complete destruction of the Jewish State. Message to the boycotters: The slogan “Not in my name” cuts both ways.
Rob Jacobs of StandWithUs sent this information to every co-op in America, and the last time I checked not one of them has voted to boycott Israel. The movement that began in Western Washington, to our shame, has also ended here, much to our credit.
There is a lesson here for community nudniks like me who fly off the handle at every insult to Israel, rush to our computers or to meetings, convinced that if we don’t act now Israel is doomed. Sometimes we need to sit back and let matters take their course. Given the right information, most people are decent and intelligent and will figure things out for themselves.
As for the boycotters’ great concern for freedom of speech, that also cuts both ways. As anyone who has dealt with the Israel bashers knows, their guiding principle is “Free Speech for Me, None For Thee.”