The Human Rights Initiative would allow members of the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op to vote on whether they would like to participate in a worldwide grass roots, citizen-led effort to put pressure on Israel to stop violating international law and Palestinian human rights. If the initiative passes, the Co-op would remove Israeli products from its shelves until Israel respected international law and human rights. Read more.
The Human Rights Initiative, text in green following Q & A, was submitted to the Secretary of the Co-op Board on January 26, 2011 with 147 member signatures (100 were required) and was proposed at the February 1, 2011 Board meeting in compliance with Section 10.06 a)1. More signatures were submitted, bringing the total to 260 more than twice the required number.
Q & A About the Human Rights Initiative
♦ What is process for a member initiative?
The Co-op Bylaws, Section 10.06, is very clear about member proposals. When a petition is received by the Board with at least 100 member signatures, the requested action is proposed at a Board or member meeting, and then it “shall be submitted to a referendum or initiative of the Membership.” Petitions for the initiative with the required number of signatures were submitted to the Co-op Board on January 26, 2011.
♦ Why this campaign?
On a daily basis, Palestinians in the West Bank are under siege by Israel’s illegal military occupation and colonization. Palestinians in Gaza are suffering from an Israeli blockade that is designed to keep them at near starvation levels according to the Israeli government. Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship are discriminated against in a system with confers specific benefits, rights and access to land on people based on religion – for this reason, former South African President Verwoerd described Israel as an apartheid state. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has continued to support Israel despite its human rights abuses. In response, citizens have organized to boycott and divest from Israel, like they did in the effort that helped end Apartheid in South Africa.
♦ Why should members of the Sacramento Co-op care about human rights?
The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op was founded on principles and has operated from basic values that reflect concern for people. Many, if not most members and shoppers expect that products they purchase at the Co-op have minimal or no adverse affects on the environment, animals, or human beings. If the welfare of human beings is not secure, neither is that of the environment, animals or the planet. And assuring human rights is the foundation for the well-being of all people.
♦ What products would be affected?
The Co-op currently carries at least seven products from Israel: Ancient Secrets Dead Sea Mineral Baths; Masada Dead Sea Mineral Bath Salts; Dead Sea Warehouse Mud Mask, Bath Salts and Salt Soap, One with Nature Soap and Yahuda Matzo. It may also carry other Israeli products. In addition to the human rights concerns, there are also environmental impacts associated with mining Dead Sea minerals and importing food products from half way around the world. Mineral salts and matzo are both available from domestic sources.
♦ What about products from Israeli co-ops?
Products would be allowed from Israeli Co-operatives that have taken a stand for human rights by signing on to the 2005 call from Palestinian Civil Society asking the world to boycott and divest from Israel, the same non-violent means used to pressure South Africa to end its apartheid system.
♦ Who is supporting the initiative?
We are a diverse group of Co-op owners who strongly support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and want to see the Co-op’s products reflect this declaration. We come from Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other religious and secular backgrounds. Whether at the Co-op, in our community or in the way our nation deals with other nations and people; we strongly oppose discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation or religious identification, for or against anyone.
♦ This initiative campaign at the Sac Co-op has been endorsed by:
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – USA
Nor Cal Friends of Sabeel (The Voice of Palestinian Christians)
Boycott from Within (Israeli citizens in support of the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, BDS)
Veterans for Peace, Sacramento Chapter
Sacramento Area Peace Action
♦ Have other Co-ops taken similar actions?
Yes, the Olympia, WA Co-op voted to remove Israeli products in July 2010. Their reasons include that their co-op “operates with an awareness of economic, ecological, and social justice … Because the Co-op understands that social ethics and social justice are inseparable from providing the community with goods, it is only appropriate that the Co-op honors the boycott … [which will] help the Co-op live up to its goals and mission statement.”
♦ Is the proposed human rights Initiative consistent with the Co-op Bylaws?
Yes, the group of member who have proposed this initiative have carefully reviewed the bylaws and Cooperative Principles. The bylaws do not specifically address boycotts but do provide for members to put referendums and initiatives before a vote of the membership. Co-operative Principles underscore both concern for community and that co-operatives are democratically controlled by their members.
♦ What about other products that might be contributing to human rights violations?
Campaigns are most effective when specifically focused, as is this one. As members who support human rights, we encourage others to consider human rights in their activism and overall purchasing decisions.
Human Rights Initiative
Whereas the Cooperative Principles stipulate that cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities; and
Whereas members of the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op (SNFC) recognize that promoting sustainability requires action at the local, national, and international levels; and
Whereas the SNFC promotes products that reflect concern for the well-being of both animals and human beings, a key to sustainability; and
Whereas the SNFC has the opportunity to participate in a grass-roots effort for Palestinian human rights;
Be it therefore resolved that the SNFC will immediately stop ordering and, within 60 days of the passage of this initiative, will stop selling any products that are: a) made by Israeli-owned companies, b) produced in Israel or in any of Israel’s illegal settlements or c) made with agricultural products or raw materials from Israel or its illegal settlements. (This does not apply to Israeli cooperatives that have signed on to the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a non-violent effort to pressure Israel to respect human rights and international law.)
SNFC may resume carrying Israeli products, as described above, when Israel has done the following, as determined by the United Nations:
1) Ended its occupation and illegal settlement of Palestine’s West Bank, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights as required by U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338 and the Geneva Conventions.
2) Ended its illegal blockade against Gaza and ceased any actions that prevent Gaza residents from having complete freedom of movement and access to their land, sea, and airspace.
3) Ended any form of institutionalized discrimination against its citizens on the basis of religion, race, or nationality and assured that all of its citizens have equal rights under the law, including equal access to and ownership of land; and
4) Complied with the requirements of U.N. Resolution 194, including allowing Palestinian refugees to return to their lands and homes.
If these conditions have not been met within two years of adoption of this referendum, the Co-op Board shall put this referendum on the ballot to be voted on again by members at the next election.