Boycott Watch
August 29, 2003
San Francisco's Rainbow Grocery Coop Ends its Boycott of Israeli Products
   The Rainbow Grocery Cooperative ( 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.

   In a 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."

   While 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."

See also:
Rainbow workers soundly defeat Israeli goods boycott
by Joe Eskenazi
Jewish Bulletin of Northern California
Sources and Articles:
Rainbow Grocery Coop
San Francisco Jewish Community Federation
Jewish Bulletin of Northern California

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