…We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas…would carry on the struggle…
The residents of upscale Park Slope (Brooklyn) will no doubt feel reassured that Israel’s Hasbara Minister, Yuli Edelstein, traveled all the way from the State of the Jews to defend the good citizens from the depredations of the BDS movement seeking to turn the neighborhood’s food coop into a Judenrein bastion of the Delegitimizers.
Readers of this blog will know that the Israeli government, its U.S.-based diplomatic personnel, and its water-carriers in this country, Standwithus, have joined in a lawfare-style campaign to harass and intimidate the Olympia food coop, which endorsed BDS a few months ago and removed nine Israeli products from its shelves. Channel 10’s Tzinor Layla interviewed deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon about the lawsuit and he confirmed that it was part of a concerted campaign by the government to fight BDS even if it meant taking American companies to court to do so. SWU’s website even documented the effort to target Olympia and Park Slope and any other company that dared to entertain thoughts of divesting their shelves of Israeli products. In the Pacific NW the SWU campaign is directed by the Israeli consul general, Akiva Tor and SWU director, Rob Jacobs.
In Park Slope, the SWU operative is Avi Posnick. He is a Long Island native and Yeshiva University graduate who rose through the SWU campus program. He seems to derive from the Orthodox Jewish community’s pro-Israel nationalist nexus.
Though an article in the local JTNews here in Seattle intimated that in the Olympia lawsuit the complainants were being represented pro bono, Ayalon’s interview statements inferred that either the government was funding the lawyer’s fees or it was helping to arrange for those fees to be paid by related parties (possibly wealthy American Jewish pro-Israel donors).
Why was Yuli Edelstein walking Park Slope’s mean streets seeking out anti-Israel villains to combat? Because the food coop offered (but did not sponsor) its facilities for a program, Images of Palestine, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. SWU no doubt got wind of the program from anti-BDS coop members patrolling the organization’s bulletin boards and website for any hint of delegitimization.
Palestinian activist Phan Nguyen received this e-mail from a coop member who attended the education program:
“Afterwards a crowd of men formed a circle and chatted with Barbara Mazor [a prominent anti-BDS person at the Co-op]. Most but not all were in business suits & yarmulkes [and] had not attended our talk. At peak, there were 15 people in a sidewalk clump outside the coop. After chatting happily and amicably for nearly an hour, several of them broke off and piled into a scary new black SUV with a driver, followed by a late-model black sedan with two security types in it. When asked who the VIP was, one of the remaining men on the sidewalk first joked that it was ‘your man, Barack Obama,’ and refused to say more. But eventually another of them claimed convincingly that the VIP was ‘somebody from the embassy,’ which I assume means the consulate.”
Actually, the intimidating crowd was composed of Israel’s Minister of Hasbara, Yuli Edelstein, an ultra-nationalist settler and Standwithus’ local director, Avi Posnick. They knew what others residents of Park Slope could barely discern, that if you didn’t fight this evil on the beaches, in the hills and alleys and on the stoops in a house-by-house campaign to rid your neighborhood, you would fall down a slippery slope into the clutches of the Israel haters and delegitimizers.
Barbar Mazor knows this. That’s why, no doubt, if there is ever a vote in favor of BDS at the food coop, she and Avi Posnick will join together with New York’s Israeli consul general to sue the coop for having the unmitigated chutzpah to express their political opinions about the Israeli Occupation. She’s such a pro-Israel groupie, and so impressed by her brush with greatness that she entitled her post about the encounter, The Minister and Me.
The Jewish Forward recently profiled SWU on its 10th anniversary and noted that if it receives any direct funding from the Israeli government it should be registering as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Act. Of course, it hasn’t done so. But whether or not there is direct financial funding, the two entities are virtually joined at the hip. There is virtually no difference or separation between the two. This is an issue that requires further research.
Haaretz’s trusty government stenographer, Barak Ravid, recounted the event inaccurately in an article recently:
One example is the story of “Park Slope Food Co-op,” a Jewish supermarket located in Brooklyn, situated in one of the most “Jewish” areas in the United States. Every week, hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists assemble near the entrance, where one can purchase Israeli goods such as Bamba, Milky, and hummus, and call for a general boycott of the store.
As Phan notes in his e-mail to me, there’s nothing “Jewish” about the coop since it’s open to membership for anyone, even an Arab or, God forbid, a Palestinian. Yes, Park Slope is considered a Jewish neighborhood though it is quite a diverse place whose residents run the gamut of almost all ethnic groups living in New York City. “Hundreds” of pro-Palestinian activists” don’t assemble at the site ever. Rather, a few members distribute flyers on an irregular basis. No one is calling for a boycott of the store. In fact, since only members can shop there, it would be foolish for members to support a boycott of their own store. Finally, Bamba and Milky are not sold at the coop and hummus, contrary to Ravid’s and Edelstein’s rather insular viewpoint, are not “Israeli goods.” Someone should tell Barak there’s nothing like a little good old-fashioned reporter’s shoe leather to do a bit of work and check the information offered you by your government sources with actual members of the food coop who can confirm or deny your sources’ claims. No doubt Ravid doesn’t care whether his reporting has any credibility among people who really know what he’s talking about. But a good reporter would. What does that make Ravid?
Edelstein’s efforts were part of the Israeli government’s “Buy Israel Week” festivities. Imagine an Israeli minister comes all the way to our shores to ensure that we Americans know to do what we’re supposed to do–buy Israel. Edelstein doesn’t visit businesses like aerospace or high-tech where there’s real commercial prospects to sell Israeli products. Instead he’s visiting supermarkets to make sure we can still buy Israeli hummus. Don’t know about you, but as a Jew and someone who cares about Israel, it warms the cockles of my heart that there’s some Israeli out there doing this sort of dirty work for us. Raymond Chandler would be proud to know that down these mean streets of Brooklyn walks an Israeli:
“…Who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.”
I know that in my heart of hearts Yuli Edelstein is such a man. Don’t you?
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.