Thursday, April 24, 2008
Open Letter to Rainbow Grocery Cooperative
We shop at Rainbow because we believe in what it stands for - an independent worker-run coop which has refused to be beholden to corporate America and which came out of the movement of the ‘60s for good food, ecology, social justice and peace.
As members of the international community we are deeply moved by the plight of the Palestinians. Gaza is being called the largest concentration camp ever to exist, Palestinian children are being shot by the Israeli Defense Forces, people are starving and walled into ghettos by a 400-mile wall around them and by checkpoints and roadblocks. Israeli war crimes during the war against Lebanon shocked the world and brought international protest. We are calling for a boycott of Israeli goods as a way of voicing our objection to the US-Israeli backed wars of aggression in the Middle East and around the globe.
As regular shoppers at Rainbow, we have been asking the store to reconsider its position in support of a boycott of Israeli goods and are getting stonewalled. Some of us have asked for a list of Israeli products and been treated rudely. Some of us have written letters stating our support for a boycott but we have gotten no response. Many significant organizations around the world support a boycott of Israeli goods including Israeli Committee against Home Demolitions; Green Party of US; Congress of South African Trade Unions; the National Lawyers Guild; Canadian Union of Public Employees and more. Rainbow shoppers are asking for an open debate on this question. Why won’t Rainbow respond?
We have heard that when Rainbow discussed a boycott in 2003, the opposition threatened to poison the bulk bins. Is this what Rainbow is afraid of? That those anti-boycott forces will commit acts of terrorism against them if they boycott? Among us are Jewish people and we abhor such terror tactics reminiscent of the Zionist Irgun/Stern Gang in Israel which used violence, blackmail and extortion to get its way.
What is Rainbow’s commitment to the community? If such a threat occurred, why wasn’t it made public? Keeping something like this quiet would protect rather than expose those who made such a threat to life even in this country. Your customers have a right to know about threats to our safety. You have a responsibility to tell us.
Is Rainbow’s financial success from a small coop on Mission Street to a major Bay Area store affecting the decision to boycott, a fear that taking such an action might affect the store’s profits? If not, then what are the reasons? Are opposing groups pressuring you privately?
These are timely questions which deserve to be answered given the urgency to stop the genocide against Palestinian people by the brutal Israeli government with its partner Bush.
The world stopped the apartheid government of South Africa by boycotts and other actions. It’s time for all of us who support justice to oppose the Israeli government and join the international call for a boycott of Israeli goods. Which side will Rainbow be on?
Please contact Rainbow Grocery at 415.863.0620/ www.rainbowgrocery.org and RBIG at email@example.com with comments.
E. A. Ooms
Rose Marie Castro
Cynthia M. Chang, L.AC, OMD
Emily Katz Kishawi
Ari Lev Fornari
Arla S. Ertz
Wayne G. Miller
Allegra Alessandri Pfeifer
Paula Frances Soto
Dorinda Moreno, Elders of 4 colors 4 directions
We are lesbian and gay people who shop at Rainbow Grocery. One reason we buy from the Rainbow worker-owned cooperative is your queer-friendly reputation and support for alternative lifestyles in general (as well as your selection of non-toxic, organic and healthy products). We are also regularly outside the store at a table with other shoppers talking to people about boycotting Israeli products.
At times, other gay people have seemed particularly disturbed by our presence and our dedication, as lesbians and gay men, to this particular cause, and we want to explain our position.
With regard to the Middle East conflict, the social and political pressures exerted on gays in America result in the issues being presented to us as something like “liberal” and “free” democracy (US and Israel) versus a “closed” religion-based, and overtly anti-gay culture (Iran, Iraq and other primarily Islamic countries). We feel that an intensive propaganda campaign exists, supported by a primarily right-wing Israeli lobby, including Christian fundamentalists, as well as others, Jews and non-Jews, some of whom see themselves as liberal and advocating peace. In media outlets ranging from national gay magazines (like the Advocate) to billboards at transit stops, gays are implored to appreciate how their rights are protected in the state of Israel, how gays are accepted in the Israeli military, as well as to consider spending “gay” dollars at Israeli resorts. From time to time we see news articles describing how Israel gives shelter and support to Palestinian gay people who want to escape.
We do not suggest it would be easy or even possible to live as an out gay person in a primarily Islamic country, as some can in places like the United States, Europe or Israel. However, contrary to propaganda geared toward American gays, the facts make it clear that, just like in many parts of the US, Israel is nothing like a land of complete tolerance or acceptance of queer or transgender lifestyles (anti-gay protests, aborted gay marches, etc., in Israel).
US media coverage of Israel is not unlike the coverage for the US invasion of Iraq, where Americans are provided with pictures of smiling generals, heavily positioned and edited sound bites, and an occasional human-interest story about saving the life of one child when thousands more are killed. A recent study showed that the death of an Israeli child was 20 times more likely to be covered by the San Francisco Chronicle than the death of a Palestinian child. Ongoing racist anti-Arab hate mongering in the US media has often cited issues of basic rights of women and gays, while the actions of the US and other western powers have ultimately done little or nothing to improve the position of either group in Islamic countries.
In addition, pro-Israel and pro-western media reporting and other propaganda disguise the fact that there is a full-scale war going on against Palestinian people, with no exception made for LGBT Palestinians (as documented by Aswat, a Palestinian Gay Women’s group). At the hands of the Israeli military and sometimes heavily-armed residents of the illegal settlements, Palestinian people are being subjected to loss of housing, regular denial of movement to and from work, school, medical care, etc., denial of water, electricity, and physical harassment, up to and including torture and killing.
As lesbians and gay men we are aware of the sometimes keen divisions between those who would see gay rights as merely securing the freedom for personal advancement (money and resources) and those of us who advocate a more humane, caring, and socially and ecologically responsible way of life. We believe it is ultimately immoral and self defeating to reduce our “gay agenda” to single issues like gay marriage or other specific civil rights for gays and to pretend that war, occupation and environmental disaster are not gay issues and therefore not our problem. Moreover, we feel it is our duty to speak out when oppression is directly funded (as in the case of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory) by massive amounts of US taxpayer money.
Finally, we ask, do we want to endorse the message now being sent to the “other side,” to a culture seen as lacking in our western freedoms? Israel continues (against international law) to confiscate land in order to build illegal settlements, dispossessing more Palestinian families, making life ever more unlivable for others. Israel government policies include collective punishment (retaliation against families and even complete strangers for the crimes of individuals), and jailing Palestinians (approximately 10,000) without due legal process. Gaza “is the largest concentration camp ever to exist” (according to Baruch Kimmerling, in Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians, Verso Books 2003), while the west bank is carved up into tiny enclaves shut off from each other, Israel, and the outside world by barriers, Israeli-only roads and highways, hundreds of checkpoints which heavily restrict travel and movement, and now a great “separation barrier” that is currently under construction.
All these Israeli policies reinforce an endless cycle of violence and only guarantee further hardening of hearts against anything connected with so-called “democratic and humanistic western values”. Existence in occupied Palestine has been called similar to, but worse than, life in South African bantustans by those who lived it, under apartheid South African rule.
The lessons being taught in the middle east, by US, European and Israeli imperialism, are not tolerance and respect for humanity; they are the lessons of abusive subjugation, bullying, theft, war, murder and violent retaliation. To all this, we say, not in our name.
There are those who would try to silence us by mystifying the issue, saying that this an “ancient” and exceedingly complex conflict. However the historical facts tell us that for hundreds of years Jews and Islamic peoples lived in the area of Israel/Palestine in general peace and harmony. It was the advent of Zionism which changed all that.
In short, we believe absolutely no peoples are well-served by imperialism or Zionism, not Jews, Arabs, Christians, atheists, Americans, Israelis, not queers nor anybody else. We reject short-sighted single-issue politics and see our future happiness integrally and permanently tied to the concepts of respect, tolerance, fair sharing of land and resources, and universal equality of all peoples of all identities, cultures and beliefs.
As peace-loving lesbians and gays we call on all our sisters and brothers to oppose the Israeli occupation of Palestine. We believe that now, as people have been considering this issue, there is increasing support for this kind of action among shoppers at Rainbow, both Jewish and non-Jewish, as part of a broader world-wide campaign for divestiture and boycott. We hope you will drop by our table in the near future or contact us for an invitation to one of our movie nights / informational meetings. Thanks!
David DeNeef, Lori Nairne, Nell Myhand, Cynthia Chang, David Vergi, Nancy Stoller, Lin White, Synthia Green, Rami Bushnaq, John Baker, Charlie Hinton, lesbian and queer supporters of Rainbow BIG
We are Jewish customers of Rainbow who shop there not only because we like the products but mostly because we have great respect for the concept of a worker cooperative. Many of us started shopping at Rainbow from the very beginning when it was a little store next to the Roxie on 16th Street. We are sending this letter to you because we believe the time is ripe for a Rainbow boycott of Israeli products.
The war against Lebanon showed the true nature of what the Israeli government represents and what its intentions are. It is time to spell out that, unfortunately, its policies are deeply connected with Bush’s murderous policies in the Middle East. The philosophy of the Israeli military leaders appears to be that “the only good Arab is a dead Arab.” We reject that mentality and hope that you do so as well.
As Jews we consider ourselves part of a long Jewish tradition of the struggle for social justice and concern for the safety and survival of Jews everywhere. Israeli policies which dehumanize others are antithetical to this proud tradition. We therefore deny any connection with those who claim to represent us while unquestioningly supporting Israeli policy which results in dehumanization of Palestinians and the destruction of their social order. Furthermore, we believe the militaristic perspective of those in charge in Israel has neither been good for the Jews of Israel nor for those in the diaspora.
We also reject Bush’s murderous policies in the Middle East. Does this make us ‘self-hating’ citizens? We care about the U.S. soldiers, their lives and their physical and mental sanity. We want them to survive and not commit crimes against humanity. We are just as appalled at the slaughter of so many thousands of Iraqis in the illegal war the U.S. is now waging in Iraq. We
need to say very clearly that the U.S. government does not represent our interest to be there to be a genocidal policeman of the Middle East or to invade countries there.
In the same vein, we do not consider ourselves ‘self-hating’ Jews who suffer from ‘internalized anti-semitism’ when we want to protect the reputation of all Jews as a compassionate people who certainly know what it’s like to suffer discrimination and genocide. Therefore, anyone who discriminates against or humiliates, harasses, persecutes, tortures, kills, destroys the livelihood of or demolishes housing of, treats as second-class or has a national policy of dehumanizing another ethnic group is our enemy, espcially because we are Jews.
For years now, many Israelis, including several women¹s groups, have actively opposed Israeli government policies against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza, and more and more Jews in the U.S. as well as in many other countries are refusing to identify with these policies. And many others have been trying to protect the Palestinians who are being persecuted and even killed by the soldiers of the Israeli Defense Force who often face no charges for this murder. We certainly do identify, however, with those courageous ‘refuseniks’ who heroically risk their own reputations by refusing to carry out Israeli policies, much like our own conscientious objectors in the U.S. military who refuse to go or return to Iraq and pay a heavy price for their actions. We need to say ‘NO, not in our name! As Jews, not in our name! As human beings, not in our name!’
Boycott, sanctions and divestment were effective in defeating apartheid in South Africa. A Rainbow boycott of Israeli goods is one small way we can make a very clear statement that can inform customers and others about Israeli policies regarding Palestine while advancing the boycott movement in the United States. And because of what Rainbow stands for, a socially accountable business, it reinforces the moral and political position of opposition to the militarist and oppressive Israeli state.
This movement is growing and Jewish people are no longer afraid to speak out, making the distinction between doing the right thing and fearing being labeled anti-semitic, incorrectly, of course, and, as a matter of fact, with quite malicious intent. In the name of our dead, our persecuted, our annihilated ancestors, let us oppose the murderous Israeli policies with
all our might, with our pocket books, our words, in the Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam, ‘repairing the world’ and of fighting along with the oppressed for the rights of all oppressed.
Please support the boycott of Israeli goods at Rainbow.
Your loyal Jewish customers,
Maggie Leigh Michael Gast Janice Rothstein
Jean Pauline Stefan Lynch Elliot Helman
Sonia Siegel Dolores HelmanAri Lev Fornari Gene Herman
Shoppers’ Petition to RAINBOW Grocery Cooperative to BOYCOTT ISRAELI GOODS (BIG):
August 1, 2006
As active Rainbow shoppers we are asking you to join the growing list of organizations and institutions that are boycotting Israel. Some of us have shopped at Rainbow since the store opened on 16th St. We are writing to ask that you reconsider a boycott of Israeli goods at Rainbow.
Although Rainbow doesn't carry a significant number of Israeli products, this vote would have extremely significant implications. Rainbow and the food co-op movement grew out of the movements of the 1960's and 70's against the war in Vietnam, and for peace, liberation and rights for workers, communities of color, women, and the LGBT community. The corporations manufacturing the pesticides that poison our food, water, and land were and are the same corporations manufacturing napalm and other hideous chemicals of war.
Recent Israeli attacks have completely destroyed the infrastructure of Lebanon and Gaza, killing and making refugees of their populations, under the pretext of forcing the return of two captured Israeli soldiers in Lebanon and one in Gaza. However the western media failed to report that Palestinians captured the Israeli soldier only after Israelis kidnapped two Palestinian civilians. On Thursday July 20, the SF Chronicle reported that Israel had been preparing for this war for more than a year and was just looking for a pretext to start it.
Israel routinely kidnaps and imprisons Palestinians, assassinating those it consider its enemies (witness the film Munich) with no outcry from the US press or government. Political leaders in this country and the media apply a complete double standard to Israel/Palestine, excusing Israeli behavior and condemning only Palestinians, which inflames the situation and makes a negotiated peace impossible. Since the US government funds, arms and supports Israel unconditionally and uncritically, thereby enabling this war to happen, it becomes incumbent on people in the United States to act to stop the war. Those among us who are Jewish are especially concerned to dissociate ourselves from what Israel is doing.
This reckless war endangers the future of the Middle East and will have catastrophic consequences for the whole world. A clear call for a boycott of Israeli goods by as significant a community organization as Rainbow Grocery would have a resounding effect in supporting the movements for peace and social justice in the world. It would be entirely consistent with the historical mission of the San Francisco Food System, of which Rainbow Grocery was once a part.
Therefore we ask you to boycott Israeli goods and remove them from our community’s store.
Take anti-war action now!
What you can do immediately to help with this emergency situation:
Sign the above letter and send it to Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, 1745 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA. USA 94103; fax 415-863-8955 also send a copy to RainbowBIG@earthlink.net.
Send a message to Rainbow: Webpage: rainbowgrocery.org, click on ‘contact’ and use their message box
Call 415-863-0620 and let Rainbow know you support the BIG.
Volunteer to table outside Rainbow, we are setting up two-hour slots, email when you are available to help.
While shopping: fill in a customer service slip and/or grocery shopping receipt saying you support a boycott at Rainbow; ask where the Israeli products are at the store; wear Boycott signs, badges, t-shirts.
Forward this email to your list-serve, call your friends and ask them to do the same; ask organizations to endorse the petition.
Rainbow Shoppers and Workers Boycott Israeli Goods Committee
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
How can boycotting Israeli goods help end these violations of human rights?
Israel¹s treatment of the Palestinians strongly resembles
In addition to its direct impact, a boycott of Israeli products will help influence world opinion against the occupation and apartheid system. This, in turn, will build pressure for divestment from companies doing business with
While Israel/Palestine is not the only place where human rights are under attack, there are two main reasons for focusing the boycott campaign on
diplomatic support. Since 1982, the
* Israeli oppression of the Palestinians has been a major factor behind the chronic turmoil in the
International law is emphatic in its prohibition of collective punishment of civilians. Amnesty International reports that in 2006 alone the Israeli army killed 325 Palestinian civilians, including 120 children, while Palestinians killed 20 Israeli civilians, including one child. Even more to the point is the following excerpt from ³The Courage to Resist² letter signed by 600 Israel Defense Force reserve officers:
We, combat officers and soldiers...have been on reserve duty all over the Occupied Territories, and were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people...The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve the purpose of Israel¹s defense, and we shall take no part in them.
Is boycotting Israeli goods anti-Semitic?
The boycott does not target the Jewish people; it targets Israeli government policies that harm not only Palestinans but Israeli Jews as well. The occupation has placed a huge strain on Israel¹s budget, on its lines of defense and on its international reputation.
The boycott¹s goal is equality and justice for everyone in the land. These are well known traditional Jewish values. Moreover, a non-violent tactic whose purpose is to achieve a just and lasting peace cannot legitimately be called anti-Semitic.
Why Rainbow Grocery?
Rainbow is a community-conscious cooperative that has always been responsive to shoppers¹ input, e.g., when it supported the South African boycott. Although it carries few Israeli products, a boycott by a worker-owned organization as significant as Rainbow grocery could inspire similar
community organizations to follow suit. This would bolster the growing
international boycott/divestment/sanctions movement which, as of summer 2007 includes national labor unions in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa, the government of the Netherlands and the Church of England. Among other groups considering support of the campaign are the World Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church, the New England Conference of the
Let Rainbow know you support a boycott of Israeli goods by calling
(415) 863-0620 or by sending a message to www.rainbowgrocery.org, click on ‘contact¹ and use their message box.
* Expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians from their homeland and creation of an exclusionary Jewish State
* Israeli West Bank settlements populated by over 400,000 Jewish
colonists built on Palestinian land, in violation of U.N. Security
Council Resolution 465
* A 25-foot-high concrete separation wall reaching far into Palestinian territory to incorporate the settlements into greater
violation of international law by the International Court of Justice
* A massive highway network, restricted to Jewish travelers only, which connects the settlements with
* Israeli control of water resources meagerly distributed to Palestinians(e.g. in the city of
* 12,000 Palestinian homes demolished; over 500,000 olive and fruit trees uprooted to make way for the separation wall
* Imprisonment of 10,000 Palestinians, many indefinitely and without
trial, in violation of the Geneva Convention