Aug 13, 2010

Olympia Food Co-op: Israeli product boycott debate cordial, passionate mideast

OLYMPIA – About 300 people filled Olympia Center on Thursday night for a passionate debate on a recent controversial decision by the Olympia Food Co-op board to boycott Israeli-made products.

Nine of the 10 board members were at the meeting, and co-op members and nonmembers lined up early for the 6 p.m. start. By 5:30 p.m., more than 100 people stood in line; some had arrived as early as 3 p.m., said Dr. Muhammad Ayub, who spoke in support of the boycott. Ayub said he arrived at that time and was the fourth person in line.

Public testimony didn’t get under way until 7 p.m., and it wasn’t clear whether the meeting would extend beyond its scheduled completion time of 8:30 p.m.

Maralise Quan, executive director of the Pierce County Dispute Resolution Center, spelled out the ground rules and set the tone for the meeting. She asked for tolerance and that no speaker be disrespected. Rather than applaud, she asked that people show their support for a speaker by waving their hands in the air.

One by one, board members introduced themselves to the audience, but only board member Ron Lavigne spoke at length, saying the board understood its decision would be controversial but was there “to address the hurt and anger and to try and heal the community.”

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