A boycott could lead to divisions not only within the institution, but without as well. “It reminds me of what one great historian once said about the Puritans: they were opposed to bear-baiting not because of the harm it did to the bear but because of the pleasure it gave the viewers,” Harvard law professor and self-appointed defender of Israel Alan Dershowitz told The Observer. “And that’s what these people are, they’re bigots. Many of them are anti-Semites. Some of them don’t know they’re anti-Semites. That doesn’t give them a pass.”
Mr. Dershowitz vowed to shut the co-op down if the B.D.S. effort succeeds. “You have to fight fire with fire,” he said. When it was pointed out that this might be difficult because the co-op is a members-only operation, he remained undeterred. “We will stop at nothing to make them pay an extraordinarily heavy price for their bigotry.”
The Israeli Consulate was also wary of a boycott, though Consul General Ido Aharoni warned that it would backfire in the end. “We take it very seriously because we know our own history,” he said. “If you look at Jewish history, we do not have the luxury of ignoring these kinds of movements.” He then pointed to efforts in Toronto and throughout Europe to combat anti-Israel boycotts. Pro-Israel supporters would go into the stores and buy out their Israeli stocks to bolster demand. “The best thing that ever happened to Israel was the Arab boycott in 1945,” Mr. Aharoni said. “It caused us to be more competitive.
The pro-B.D.S. movement has its own powerful supporters. Nobel Prize winner—Nobel Prize winner!—Archbishop Desmond Tutu pioneered the boycott movement in South Africa, and he has openly supported B.D.S. movements worldwide, including a successful one last summer at a co-op in Olympia, Wash. (The city’s total population is just over 46,000, or about one-tenth the number of Jews living in Brooklyn.) “The archbishop has spoken in support of B.D.S. on several platforms,” a spokesman wrote in an email, suggesting he could support this one as well.
In the end, like so many other co-op controversies, this could be a crisis of conscience and little else. “Would I leave the co-op?” said one anti-B.D.S. organizer. “Did I leave the country when a certain president spent eight years in office?”