Nine of the co-op board’s 10 members voted Thursday to participate in the international boycott. Harry Levine, a staff representative to the board, said he didn’t take a stand on the issue.
Not everyone on the co-op staff agrees with the decision, Levine said. He said that outside of his role as a board member, he supports it.
“My personal view is that boycotts can be effective tools in changing governments,” he said. “I personally support it, and I’m an American Jew.”
The board voted to boycott Israeli products as a way to “compel Israel to follow international law and respect Palestinian human rights,” according to a statement the board released. The boycott announcement has been posted on the co-op’s website, www.olympiafood.coop, as well as at its two stores.
Israeli products removed from the stores include gluten-free crackers, ice cream cones and a moisturizing cream, Levine said.
This is not the first time that the 33-year-old co-op has taken part in a boycott, he said. It has boycotted products from Norway and China in objection to whaling and human rights violations.
Members have been asking the board since at least 2008 to boycott Israeli products, Levine said. About 50 co-op members were at Thursday’s board meeting, he said. The co-op has 15,000 to 20,000 members who are considered active. It costs $29 over a period of four years to join the co-op, although $24 of that is refundable if a member leaves.
Since last week’s vote, the co-op has received more positive than negative e-mails from all over the world about the decision, as well as phone calls, Levine said. An employee who answered the phone at the co-op’s east-side location Tuesday said the store had received a “few hundred calls....”
A meeting to discuss the Olympia Food Co-op’s participation in a boycott of Israeli products is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 11 at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. N.W., board member Harry Levine said Tuesday.
HOW TO COMMENT
To comment on participation in the boycott, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-357-1106, ext. 12.
Americans are far more supportive of Israel than Europeans, and most initiatives to boycott Israeli goods or to divest funds from companies working with Israel are unsuccessful in the United States.
But such projects have recently become more widespread, especially among students – although most divestment decisions by student bodies are not implemented on the colleges' management levels.
Last week, the board of directors of the Olympia Food Co-op in Washington state decided that no more Israeli products will be sold at its two grocery stores in the city.
"We met last Thursday for the board members meeting and a pretty large group – about 40 people – presented the boycott project and answered our questions," Rob Richards, a board member, told Haaretz. "A couple of board members were concerned about what will be the financial effect on the organization, but it’s minimal. For me personally there is a moral imperative that goes beyond any financial concern. So we decided to adopt the boycott which went into effect the next day."
Asked whether the boycott includes all products made in Israel, or only in settlements, Richards explained: "As far as I know – it concerns any Israeli products. We exempted "Peace Oil" – it’s a joint product produced by the Palestinian farmers. Any product that is made by the company that works to improve the conditions of the Palestinians will be exempted."
Richards says the decision drew no protests.
"There was very little feedback from the staff that was against the boycott, but it seemed as minority opinion. We have two members on the board from the Jewish community who were supportive of the boycott – it’s pretty progressive town...."