By a vote of 1005-653 the Park Slope Food Co-op voted not to hold a referendum on boycotting Israeli products. Supporters argue that Israels human rights record towards the Palestinians is poor enough to warrant a boycott. Opponents argue that the boycott is inappropriate for the co-op, overly divisive to the membership, and unfairly singles out Israel when the co-op carries products from other countries that have human rights records similar to or worse than Israel's.
The vote shows that the boycott is unlikely to be embraced any time soon, but also shows that both sides are well represented among the membership. The letters section of the co-op's newsletter have been filled every single issue with letters from both sides. However, by now I think the majority of co-op members are sick of the whole issue and would prefer both sides give it a rest...or at least many letters to that effect have been published more recently.
To me the most disturbing thing about the boycott movement is a nearly complete unwillingness to even give credence to the other side. Opponents (and I am one of them) are often sympathetic to Palestinians (I am even open to a UN seat for Palestine) and highly critical of the right wing government of Israel. But not supportive of a boycott by the food co-op. So from that side there is common ground. I have even recommended a strategy that could possibly lead to a boycott of Israel without unfairly singling it out: set human rights criteria that a nation must meet or face a boycott by the co-op. This would mean China and Turkey would almost certainly be boycotted as well, but perhaps the free Tibet movement (which has called for a boycott of China) would like that. And Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian, and Greek advocates call for a boycott of Turkey. Set standards in such a way as to boycott Israel and you almost certainly will see boycotts of other nations as well, but at least this would be consistent and fair. But the boycott movement ONLY wants to target Israel and won't listen to any suggestion that makes the boycott unbiased. This does little to reassure those who feel there is some degree of anti-Semitism on the boycott movement (something that is not necessarily there but too often seems to attract anti-Semites). read more »
A short time back I took City Councilmembers Steve Levin and Brad Lander to task for, what seemed at the time, a casual decision to defund the Doe Fund's clean up efforts in Park Slope. I particularly took them to task for misleading statements and for denigrating the Doe Fund overall, which I found difficult to stomach because the Doe Fund is one of the most successful (among the ONLY successful) organizations for reducing recidivism among parolees.
Steve Levin has shown no interest in this issue...or any issue in the district from what I can tell. I guess as long as he has the backing of corrupt Party Boss Vito Lopez (his mentor) he feels he can cruise along with no problem...particularly since he also managed to get the formerly decent Working Families Party backing him as well, creating a nasty and disgusting alliance between the Vito Lopez machine and a Working Families party that at BEST skirted the law, and in reality had to scramble to avoid prosecution after breaking some campaign finance laws for the likes of Steve Levin.
But Brad Lander, who I have had some serious disagreements with, seems different than Steve "Vito's Kid" Levin. Brad Lander HAS been involved with the community, even if I disagree with him on the Doe Fund's role in the community, and he took the time to respond to my article taking him to task.
Let me begin by reviewing what I wrote before, then quoting Councilmember Brad Lander responding to my article, then giving something of a rebuttal from myself and giving a different opinion from Councilmember Daniel Dromm. read more »
I want to preface this article by saying that Councilmember Brad Lander has been doing some good things recently which I want to acknowledge before I lay into him on this issue. In particular I want to re-emphasize the good work Brad Lander has been doing with the Center for Anti-violence Education (which my wife teaches at) to get self-defense classes for women in the areas where there have been a spate of assaults on women. I should note fellow Councilmember Steve Levin has NOT been involved in helping the community on this issue. Councilmembers Brad Lander, Sara Gonzalez, Tish James have and they deserve credit for it.
But there is another issue where Brad Lander and Steve Levin have made, in my mind, a serious error.
It all started with my building's resident Yenta (by her own admission) asking me why 7th Ave is no longer being cleaned up. Until recently, she observed, men in blue outfits (a collaboration between the city and the Doe Fund aimed to help the homeless and parolees transition back into society and employment) would help the city empty the garbage and clean the streets. Recently those blue-uniformed men disappeared from 7th Avenue and in their place garbage piled up everywhere adding to what my wife already referred to as the "7th Ave. Stink." I have to say 7th Ave. smells worse on average than any other street I personally walk down in Brooklyn or Manhattan. And now that the Doe Fund people have disappeared from 7th Ave. the stink is getting worse.
To me this is not, however, primarily about the cleanliness of our neighborhood. It is about a program that is one of the most successful in the nation in getting homeless and parolees back into society. Here is the description of the Doe Fund from their website:
Ready, Willing & Able is The Doe Fund's holistic, residential, work and job skills training program which helps homeless individuals in their efforts to become self-sufficient, contributing members of society. Ready, Willing & Able has helped more than 4,500 men and women become drug-free, secure full-time employment, and obtain their own self-supported housing. The program targets the segment of the homeless population considered the hardest to serve: single, able-bodied adults, the majority of whom have histories of incarceration and substance abuse. Criteria for acceptance into the program is that the applicant be ready, willing and able, both physically and mentally, to work and maintain a drug-free lifestyle.
Folks, this kind of program saves taxpayers money in the long run. Like vaccinations and education, programs like this are one of the best investments society can make with taxpayer money. And, like cutting education, cutting this program is one of the dumbest moves a government can make because it will COST us all money in the long run. read more »
Just a reminder, this coming Tuesday, March 8th at 7 PM will be the March meeting of Central Brooklyn Eating Liberally. This month's meeting looks to be a great one for two reasons. First, we are likely to have people from a variety of groups attending, if all goes well. Second, we are meeting at one of the best restaurants around.
Kaz an nou is a French/French Caribbean fusion restaurant with amazing food at reasonable prices. Only draw backs are that they are cash only (be warned), they are BYOB, and they fill up, so we need to all be there by 7 PM to make sure we get a table. But believe me it will be worth it! Don't believe me? Check them out:
This month there will also be a lot to talk about. If we get a good cross section of local politics attending I will happily shut up and let everyone else do the talking. Otherwise I will be pushing for how important it is for progressives all over the country to be helping out our pro-union friends in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana...and even possibly IDAHO!
Hope to see you there.
Central Brooklyn Eating Liberally
Tuesday March 8th, 7 PM
at Kaz an nou
53 6th Avenue
Had an odd experience today and it may have affected others in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Was at work this morning when I got a call from my building's managing agent, on the ball this morning, who had noticed police near our building. They talked with the cops and then called me...
Seems a suspicious package was found on 7th Ave in Park Slope near where I lived...with my name and address on it! Cops were called and contacted our managing agent and they contacted me.
I have heard two very different descriptions of the suspicious package: one vaguely fits an old suitcase, originally my step-father's, that my wife and I threw out more than a month ago. I remember taking all identifying tags off it before putting it with my building's trash, but it is possible we missed something. If this description is accurate, then things kind of make sense. read more »