Four Park Slope Food Co-Op members who were suspended from the group for disrupting a presentation on boycotting Israeli products vow to keep up their fight — and are planning to sue the group.
Co-op members Alan Ettlinger, Rhudi Andreolli, Milldred Rutner and Sharon Eagle were suspended for a year by a unanimous vote of a jury of other co-op members. The decision, which was made in April but only reported this week, bars the four from entering the co-op or attending any of its events.
Rutner called the hearing a “kangaroo court” and said that they had already spoken to an attorney who had agreed to take the case. No legal papers have been filed.
“The hearing that we had was grossly unfair,” she said. “They were supposed to be impartial.”
Andreolli also believes that they were unfairly targeted by co-op members who support BDS when they were merely standing up against anti-Semitism.
“We stood up to these bullies and these lies and propaganda and we got shot down,” said Andreolli.
She likened pro-BDS members to ‘fascists’ and asserted that taking such a critical stance of Israel is anti-Semitic, even though many of their opponents are also Jewish.
“Zionism is Judaism,” she said.
The food co-op has been fighting over whether to boycott some Israeli products for nearly a decade. In 2012, members of the group voted down a proposal to boycott some Israeli products after a contentious debate.
On April 28, 2015, the four members got up on the stage to interrupt a presentation about boycotting SodaStream products by the neighborhood’s BDS chapter. They insisted that the photos of military action in the occupied territories be taken down and would not get off the stage unit they were.
On April 10, 2016, the four members were suspended after a disciplinary hearing.
Ann Herpel, the co-op’s general coordinator, said that the suspended members will be welcome to rejoin once the year is over. The disciplinary process took a year to go through the process and arrange a hearing.
“The process has been approved by the membership through our general meeting…” she said. “I don’t think it’s my place to criticize [the outcome].”
Robin Ticker, a blogger who has been an outspoken opponent of BDS, said that she was helping her four suspended friends put together the lawsuit against the co-op. She feels that their side has not been sufficiently heard.
“Let’s talk truth,” said Ticker. “Let’s address the complaints.”
Andreolli said being suspended from the co-op has taken a serious toll on her life.
“I depend on the co-op. I’m poor … but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to eat healthy. And they still threw me out,” she said.
Rutner said that she hopes the situation would not come to trial, but also will not stop pushing until BDS is no longer permitted at the co-op.
“I am going to see this through and I am going to work towards throwing out BDS and then I will quit,” she said.
Contact Veronika Bondarenko at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @veronikabond.