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Park Slope Food Coop Votes Down Boycott Of Israeli Products

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Members of the Park Slope Food Coop have voted against holding a referendum on boycotting products from Israel.

The politically-charged vote brought out the masses as the trendy food co-op conducted the vote on Tuesday night. There was both delight and disgust as the crowd of more than 1,500 shot down the idea.

Organizers said 1,662 votes were cast with 653 for the idea of holding a boycott referendum, while more than 1,000 were against the idea.

"I'm very upset about it. I think it's terrible," said one member.

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"The right people won, democracy won," said another.

The idea was introduced as a protest to the Israeli government's policies toward Palestinians and held at the co-op's monthly meeting at Brooklyn Technical High School.

With only a handful of Israeli products sold in the co-op, boycott advocates admitted the vote was symbolic.

"But when we win these little symbolic victories, it prepares you to take on bigger, more substantive targets," co-op member Andy Pollack told CBS 2's Sean Hennessey.

"It's a way to make a statement on a problem that diplomacy has failed to fix," another member, Irina Ivanova, said.

But was it political consciousness, or anti-Semitism?

Some of Park Slope Food Coop's members wanted nothing to do with Israel and wanted the co-op to join an international movement called BDS, or boycott, divestment and sanctions. Supporters of the movement include Bishop Desmond Tutu and Alice Walker.

"I was in Gaza in 2009, a delegation at the invitation of the UN-RWA, and I saw for myself what the 22-day bombardment had done in December and January of '08 and '09, with villages leveled, with hospitals shot full of holes," added the co-op's Dennis James.

However, many New Yorkers thought boycotting Israel was dangerous.

"We're definitely against the boycott. Why should I vote against Israel?" asked Bob Seidenberg.

"It has nothing to do with food. There are people who want Israel torn apart and everybody to be massacred and America's not going to let that happen," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

"It's outrageous and it's wrong, anything that would hurt Israel, which is our strongest ally," added Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

Tuesday night's vote was the culmination of three years of effort to bring the issue before the co-op's 16,000 members, many of whom were eager to have the whole thing settled once and for all.

What do you think of the vote? Sound off in our comments section below. 

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