| The Rainbow
Grocery Cooperative (www.rainbow.coop) in San Francisco, CA had previously
removed various Israeli foods in 2 departments is an apparent boycott of
Israeli products. This prompted a reaction by the San Francisco Jewish
Community Federation and members of the Jewish community by boycotting the
Rainbow Grocery Coop.
In an official statement by the
Rainbow Grocery Cooperative and posted on their web site at the time, RGC
denied that a boycott of Israel products exists and pointed out that its
membership never even voted on a boycott of Israel goods, something that would
require a 51% vote to carry out.
There was, however,
an unofficial boycott of Israeli goods in two departments in the store, as
department managers, who run their departments independently, removed Israeli
products from their shelves and refused to purchase further items in solidarity
with Palestinian Arabs. RGC department heads have wide latitude in the products
they carry, or in this case do not carry. This allows the RGC to effectively
carry out a boycott without the approval of its membership.
Despite the denials of a boycott of Israel products
by RGC management, an article by the Jewish Bulletin News of Northern
California quoted an RGC employee confirming that an actual boycott of Israeli
products did in fact exist.
Since the RGC boycott was
in solidarity with Palestinian Arabs according to some RGC employees, Boycott
Watch concluded that the RGC boycott of Israeli goods may be considered
'enjoining' as defined by the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and
Security. The law against enjoining into foreign boycotts was enacted to
prevent boycotters from creating de facto foreign policy, which Congress has
determined can effect or interfere with US Foreign Policy. (See "Joining in the
Arab boycott of Israel is Illegal,")
The boycott has
created much controversy within the RGC, the San Francisco Jewish Community and
in the bay area in general. As a result of RGC's boycott, many people boycotted
RGC, where the issue has been a hot topic for months with much heated debate.
All that changed on August 22, 2003, when the 200
worker-owners of Rainbow Grocery Coop voted on against participating in a
boycott of Israeli products. The change is a result of the "consequences, and
political effectiveness, within our collective and with members of our larger
community" according to a press release posted by RGC.
Boycott Watch spoke to Seanetta, Rainbow coop's
official press spokesperson regarding the boycott vote, but all Seanetta could
say was "I can't speak for all the members." Boycott Watch informed Seanetta
that we were trying to have their side of the story be heard, but all Seanetta
was able to say was that a "2/3rds majority vote needed to pass a boycott."
Steve Berley, Director of Israel Programs for the
Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, an umbrella group
representing more than 80 synagogues and Jewish organizations in the Bay Area
said: "Were thrilled they decided to do the right thing and not boycott
products from Israel. The boycott went down by a vast majority. Were thrilled
they did the right thing."
Berley noted that before
the vote, Israel was singled out by RGC even though boycotting Israel made the
least sense of any country in the middle-east.
press release, the JCRC wrote: "As a store that prides itself on promoting a
just society and that welcomes people of any age, race and persuasion, we
believe this is the right decision. Israel protects women's rights, supports
the rights of gays and lesbians, guarantees religious freedom to people of all
faiths, and encourages men and women of all ethnicities to seek public office
in its democratic and fair elections."
discussing the reaction of the Jewish community to the RGC boycott and vote
against it, Burley said "We have not condoned or called for a boycott of RGC
ourselves, but some individuals have had their own boycott (of RGC). We
encourage anyone who has boycotted RGC to go back and request products made in
Israel." The JCRC press releases also urged Rainbow Grocery to start carrying
"many of the fine products made in Israel and offer our assistance in locating
those that meet their guidelines for natural products."
Rainbow workers soundly defeat Israeli goods
by Joe Eskenazi
Jewish Bulletin of Northern