Olympia Food Co-op boycott: wrong

Washington state’s Olympia Food Co-op “honor nationally recognized boycotts which are called for reasons that are compatible with our goals and mission statement”. In that vein they’re adding Israel to a list which includes all of China and one US company (is that seriously all?). The decision to go for an all-Israel boycott rather than boycotting the settlements suggests that only Israel’s end as a Jewish state will satisfy these boycotters. The wording of the boycott statement either confirms this or confirms their ignorance.

The unusual thing about this boycott is that the Olympia Food Co-op also say antisemitism is a problem and even more unusually (unlike the University and College Union, for example) they have identified a problem in pro-Palestinian movements which (unlike Cafe Crema, for example) they consider – if briefly – to be their problem:

“Unfortunately, anti-Semitic statements have abounded in a lot of the “support” that the co-op has received in regard to the Israeli-products’ boycott. This pamphlet (downloadable, or available for reading online) is a good primer on what anti-Semitism looks like, especially in relation to pro-Palestinian work, and how we can include work against Jewish oppression in our movements for justice and peace.”

(Yes, read it again – that’s actually oppression of Jews, not by them.)

Writing in Ha’aretz, Bradley Burston:

“I want to thank the Olympia Food Co-op Israel boycott. Something extremely valuable is happening there. Something truly radical. An awareness that people who are truly in favor of social justice must take a stand against bigotry, no matter the target.”

Spare us. It’s a sign of the times that a short post and link to a pamphlet against antisemitism can bring about such extremes of relief and gratitude that an anti-boycotter fails to notice the boycott terms and overlooks the difference – gulf – between reasons and outcomes.

A boycott of farmers, manufacturers and distributors in Israel doesn’t deserve any “honor”. It doesn’t distinguish between Israel and the settlements, doesn’t respond to the anti-Jewish threats from the neighbours, and ignores the long-standing suppressed war against Israel currently making itself evident in Eilat, Ashkelon and – fatally – the Jordanian city of Aqaba. These things give some explanation why Binyamin Netanyahu, bad leader of a bad coalition, has such strong approval in Israel.

Boycotting workers in Israel is useless and probably counter-productive. How does it help anti-boycotters like Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom, which has just managed to get Israel’s own Gaza flotilla investigation (which I’m willing to bet you didn’t hear on the news reports about the UN investigation) upgraded to legal standing?

That the Olympia Food Co-op were prepared to hurt themselves so badly to bring in such clearly unpromising policy is alarmingly disorientated. At best. Linking to that pamphlet was the least they could do.

Update: via Entdichtung in the comments below, a vehemently anti-Zionist and anti-capitalist view from the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) who at the same time consider the standing BDS campaign antithetical “to the international working-class struggle on which the liberation of the Palestinians is premised. BDS campaigns serve to promote illusions in the benign nature of other capitalist powers — not least British imperialism — relative to Israel”.

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