City Officials Denounce Park Slope Food Co-op for Boycott of Israeli Goods

By: Justin Chan

A food co-op in Brooklyn is under fire from city officials for attempting to boycott products from Israel, according to the New York Times.

The criticism comes at a time when religious groups such as Jews and Muslims have been targeted by governments across the world for carrying out what authorities perceive as unsanitary food practices. The Park Slope Food Co-op will hold a referendum on the proposed boycott, which encourages sanctions against Israel for political reasons. Members are scheduled to vote on Tuesday, but the issue has already divided neighbors, who are part of a politically active constituency that regularly votes in local and citywide elections.

Several notable politicians have also joined the discussion. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference that he was perplexed by the co-op's proposal and voiced his support for Israel. He said that he did not understand why the co-op would engage in a debate on foreign policy. "I think it has nothing to do with the food," he said of the boycott. "The issue is there are people who want Israel to be torn apart and everybody to be massacred, and America is not going to let that happen."

Bloomberg encouraged the city to work closely with Israel rather than distance itself. Public advocate Bill de Blasio, a native of Park Slope himself, also shared in the mayor's denunciation of the co-op's boycott. "I really have a lot of respect for the co-op and its history, and maybe that's in part what's motivating me," he said. "I'm pained that an organization that has done so much good would wade into these waters."

Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president and a mayoral candidate, was much harsher in his criticism of the proposal and said that it bordered anti-Semitism. "This action is an unwarranted attack on one of America's strongest allies and an embarrassment to our city," he wrote in an email.

The boycott is not expected to have much of an impact on Israeli businesses since the co-op only carries six or so products from Israel. Some of the products include paprika, olive pesto and vegan marshmallows. As such, a boycott of such commodities would only serve a symbolic purpose. Still, it has not stopped prominent city figures such as Bloomberg, de Blasio and Stringer to publicly voice their disapproval. "The relationship between New York and Israel, in my opinion, is very, very significant, and something I feel very, very strongly about," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "This boycott is ill conceived. I don't think there should be a vote, and I hope that is what happens."

Photo: Wally Gobetz

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