Letters: Reactions to Call for Boycott

(Editor's note: Letters in response to the opinion piece in the October 2018 Shuttle supporting a boycott of Israeli-made products are in alphabetical order by last name of the letter writer. The first item is Weavers Way GM Jon Roesser's statement on behalf of Weavers Way management.)

Co-op Management: No Plan for Boycott of Israeli Products

Weavers Way management does not believe it is within our authority to boycott a product or vendor based strictly on country of origin. As Weavers Way is a member-owned business, management is accountable to members through its elected representatives, Weavers Way’s Board of Directors. The Board establishes policies for management to adhere to when conducting Co-op business. From management’s perspective, nothing in the current Board policies can be interpreted to mean that management can (or should) make product choices based on where a product is grown or produced or where its corporate offices are located.

For this reason, management does not intend to support the BDS of Israel movement.

Jon Roesser, General Manager, Weavers Way Co-op

Support the Boycott 

I am writing to support Marlena Santoyo’s Shuttle op-ed (October 2018) about the nonviolent international movement to end Israel’s systematic oppression of Palestinians. Marlena’s letter appeared soon after I returned from a short trip to Israel and Palestine. This trip combined celebrating Rosh Hashanah with my Israeli relatives and traveling by myself in the Occupied West Bank. 

I am not an expert on Palestinian politics, but I did talk with people in markets, streets and shared taxis in Ramallah and Nablus, as well as attending a few structured gatherings. My biggest takeaways were: (1) Visiting Palestine is a wonderful, stimulating experience. Don’t be scared by the State Department warnings. (2) Palestinians I spoke with on the West Bank want their children to have a future — jobs, families, education, the ability to travel from place to place. Their words had a familiar ring to what we often hear in Philadelphia: “This is not a time for more blood. We want our children to have hope.” 

Weavers Way members should be aware that the BDS movement is a nonviolent call for action that originated with Palestinian civil society. It is time for us to engage in a serious, open discussion about this issue. 

Sukey Blanc

Buy MORE Israeli Products

I am writing in response to an opinion letter in the October 2018 Shuttle urging a boycott of Israeli products. I am a proud working member of Weavers Way for the past 40 years and have lived in Mt. Airy since 1978. I am a longtime advocate of social justice and a social worker. I have officially renamed BDS. It now stands for Buy, Distribute and Sell Israel products. Whenever I hear about BDS, I run out and buy products made in Israel. As we say in Yiddish, Ahf zu lochis! Let all the Israel detractors spur us on in the New Year to BDS — buy, distribute and sell Israel products and support the State of Israel!

Linda Cherkas

BDS Support Is Outside Co-op’s Mission 

As a working member of Weavers Way Co-op and a supporter of peace and justice, I feel compelled to respond to the recent letter from Marlena Yassky Santoyo, who advocated that our co-op support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. All the Israeli-owned greenhouses that created thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of income were left to allow Gazans to build their economy and grow food. What happened to these greenhouses? They were destroyed! Hamas won the only subsequent election held in Gaza in 2006 and has remained in power for the past 13 years. Subsequently, thousands of missiles launched from Gaza have attacked nearby Israeli communities. As a defensive response, Israel began a commercial blockade of Gaza. Contrary to the inference one might draw from Ms. Santoyo’s letter, food (and electricity and medicine) were not subject to the embargo.

The mission of Weavers Way Co-op is to provide high-quality, fairly priced foods. Support of the BDS is outside the Co-op’s mission and is abhorrent to many members such as myself.

Michael Davis

Boycott a Good Idea 

We are new Co-op members pleased to see the October opinion piece by Marlena Yassky Santoyo calling on Weavers Way to participate in a consumer boycott of Israeli-produced goods.

Weavers Way rightfully calls for “ethically produced goods” and a “culture that values diversity and inclusiveness.” Such ideals must not be limited to the localities in which co-ops are located. When Weavers Way sells Israeli goods produced unethically, and oppresses and excludes 20% of its population from equal rights, it is violating its pronounced “ends.” The Co-op also refers to “an emphasis on local goods.” Goods from Israel are far from local.

We appreciate the Shuttle printing the opinion piece and hope other members will write expressing their opinions, as well.

We hope to hear from the Weavers Way Board members that they are considering abiding by the consumer boycott.

Libby and Mort Frank

Boycott Would Alienate Customers

I strongly disagree with the opinion piece in the October Shuttle, “Israeli Product Boycott a Step Forward for Food Justice” and do not think it would be in the best interest of the Co-op to take a position on political issues such as this. Whatever position is taken would alienate some customers. If Weavers Way boycotted Israeli products or posted a list of products to boycott, I and many others would stop shopping at the Co-op. As a business, it is better to stay neutral on political issues that are outside the scope of the mission statement of the Co-op. Furthermore, many of the actions the author objects to are those of the U.S. government. Are we also going to boycott all U.S. products because we don’t like some positions and actions of the U.S. government?

Joan Ryder Ludwig

Co-op No Place for Diatribes

I was so disappointed to see the letter supporting a boycott against Israel in the paper. I can name a dozen countries struggling with human-rights issues right now: China, Myanmar, Sudan, Venezuela — the list is sadly very long and the individual issues are very serious. This is not the place to start political diatribes. I shop at the Co-op for healthy food and a sense of strong community. An anti-Israel sentiment makes me feel unwelcome.  

Barbara Polinsky

Boycott Opinion Writer’s ‘Simplistic’ View

Regarding the “Opinion” authored by Marlena Yassky Santoyo in the October Shuttle, where to start?

The author’s simplistic perspective regarding Israel’s alleged lack of respect for the rights of the “Palestinian people” flows directly from the Palestinian playbook. Her hypocrisy in neglecting to even touch upon the failure of both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to respect the rights of the Palestinians they govern is breathtaking. And where is her acknowledgment that the boycott of Israeli products she urges Weavers Way to join is the brainchild of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS movement, whose objectives, if imposed on Israel, would mean that Israel would cease to exist?

Obviously, it is impossible to set out here the detailed history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But I urge Ms. Santoyo to stop ignoring the truth of the well-documented historical refusal, which is at the core of the conflict, of the Palestinians (and apparently of Ms. Santoyo) to accept the existence and legitimacy of a sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East. I suggest that if the use by the Palestinians of wars, terrorism and twisted diplomacy has failed to destroy the Jewish homeland, certainly economic boycotts will likewise fail dismally to do so.

Curt Pontz 

The Problem Is Politics, Not Food 

I read with interest Marlena Yassky Santoyo’s letter regarding a proposed boycott of Israeli goods. Her comment that “Politics is negotiable; food must not be” reveals a glaring inconsistency, bordering on hypocrisy. Why is it OK to boycott Israeli food products, if food “must not be” negotiable? Also, where is the part of her plan to pressure the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table? 

The solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is for both sides to become realistic about achieving a settlement — the Israelis to recognize their limited choices of either an apartheid-like state or continued insecurity, and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table to demand a two-state solution, the only viable long- term plan. 

The truculence, and ongoing offensive violence, of Hamas in Gaza is the root cause of Gaza’s misery. Only their willingness, along with the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, will lead to an end to this conundrum. Until they, along with moderate Arab states, support an end to the conflict with real deeds and guarantees, the conflict will persist, boycotts or not. 

 Jeff Sedwin