Monday, June 20, 2011

Boycott controversy persists at Sacramento, CA, food cooperative

The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.

Controversy at the co-op: Boycott Israel?

By Brandon Darnell in the Sacramento Press
June 9, 2011

The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op has become a battleground for Middle East politics as some members are trying to get the board of directors to sign off on a boycott of Israeli products.

Arguing that Israel is violating human rights by occupying Palestinian territories, the group of members says that the co-op should not sell products from Israel because that supports human rights violations.

All co-op members are considered partial owners as well.

Co-op General Manager Paul Cultrera said he does not support the boycott in the store.

“We’re here to run a store,” he told The Sacramento Press Wednesday. “I think that the issue about Israeli human rights violations - it’s a valid issue. I’m not taking a side on it, but we’re not here to be political.”

The products in question, he added, mainly consist of six to eight varieties of bath salts from the Dead Sea. The manufacturers are all American companies, and one company gets it from the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, while the others get the salts from the Israeli side.

Some matzo products are carried as well. During Passover, he added, some wines from Israel are brought in and stocked until they are sold out.

He added that Israeli products make up about $13,000-$14,000 in sales annually. Total annual sales are about $26 million.

“We didn’t bring the products in because they were from Israel,” Cultrera said. “We brought them in because customers wanted them and buy them.”