Israeli Consul, StandWithUs Engage in Lawfare Against Olympia Food Coop
The eavesdropping transcripts Shamai Leibowitz leaked in 2009 contained information about covert Israeli penetration of the American political environment. If I had transcripts of current Israeli diplomatic traffic now, I’d be hearing conversations concerning the story I’m about to tell. Electronic Intifada reports that the Israeli consul in the Pacific Northwest, Avi Tor, has colluded with StandWithUs’ Northwest director, Rob Jacobs to gin up a lawsuit against the Olympia food coop because it voted for a boycott of Israeli products on its shelves.
In 2009, one of the major themes for Israeli diplomats in this country was provoking hostility and fear of Iran. Today, priorities have shifted somewhat and a new major theme is what the Israeli government falsely calls “delegitimization.” That is, campaigns like BDS and the Gaza flotilla which aim to end the Occupation, but not, as Israel claims, to destroy that nation. You can be sure that the diplomatic traffic and telephone conversations between Israel and its outposts here are filled with this sort of chatter. As will be the conversations between diplomats and American Jewish leaders, who aid and abet Israeli interests in this country.
Let’s return to the food coop lawsuit. This is a prime example of another fake concept dubbed “lawfare,” and popularized by pro-Israel hucksters like Alan Dershowitz to characterize alleged campaigns by pro-Palestinian groups to delegitimize Israel. He’s referring to international arrest warrants filed by human rights groups against Israeli military officers and government officials seeking accountability for potential war crimes like Operation Cast Lead. Of course, the ultimate goal of such suits, aside from actually punishing Israelis responsible for violating international law, is forcing Israel to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict–and again, not to destroy Israel.
The Olympia food coop lawsuit and similar MFA-inspired operations aren’t designed to uncover any real wrongdoing (as the war crimes cases are). But rather, they’re simply designed to destroy the credibility of movements viewed falsely as attempting to destroy Israel. The tools Israel and its agents here use in their campaign are ones of lies and fear. For example, one of the claims in the letter threatening a lawsuit was that last year’s vote had instilled ““a climate of fear and terror for Jews.” Say what? A vote for a boycott instills terror and fear? This is food folks, not the Warsaw Ghetto. Only unbelievably audacious hucksters like SWU could come up with such a tissue of lies.
EI points out that a SWU video promoting its work in Olympia against the coop boycott displays a flyer with a Nazi swastika superimposed on a Star of David and calls it an “actual image from a handout.” It doesn’t specify where the handout was distributed or who produced it. It could be a document from anywhere. Once again, this is typical of SWU’s three-card monte style of political agitprop.
Another proof of the fakery behind this lawsuit is that it doesn’t at all contest BDS or the boycott that members approved. Instead, it claims unspecified technical rule violations disqualified the measure. Not only does it not indicate what the board did wrong, it doesn’t indicate how the vote could be taken properly. And further, the litigants have refused an offer from members to gather 300 signatures necessary to reopen the question and take a new vote.
I would have less problem with this lawsuit if it was one genuinely generated from within the food coop by members who conceived of the idea themselves and organized it themselves. In reality, the lawsuit was conceived, organized and promoted by the State of Israel through its official agents in this country, and by StandWithUs, working as a thinly concealed extension of Israeli government interests.
What’s more, Akiva Tor and Rob Jacobs have lied in characterizing their roles in order to conceal it. I’ve written before about Jacobs’ tendency to lose track of the truth. Again, I would have less problem with this entire arrangement if SWU and the Israeli consulate was transparent about their actions. Something like what the Minneapolis JCRC did when confronted by its local Jewish independent newspaper. The JCRC director put out a statement essentially conceding that they worked on behalf of the Israeli foreign ministry in monitoring Rep. Keith Ellison, deemed by both of them, at least privately, as hostile to Israel.
But Tor and Jacobs conceal and lie rather than admitting their role and actions involving the lawsuit. This is perfectly of a piece with the behaviors and subterfuge laid out in the Leibowitz transcripts. So the question for Americans and American Jews is: is this the sort of behavior you approve of for a foreign power? And for Jews, is this the Israel that makes you proud? I’d like to be proud of Israel. I really would. But not THIS Israel.
Here is something like what I believe happened: Olympia has been on the radar of SWU and the Israeli consulate for quite some time due to the alleged anti Israel activism on the Evergreen College campus. Through its campus activism, SWU has been recruiting in the community for some time. As did the David Project at Columbia, it found willing students or local community members prepared to claim their religion had been disrespected and they had been harrassed merely for being Jews. Anti-Semitism is a powerful canard. And young Jews who have never experienced real anti-Semitism, and have been politically “attuned” to SWU’s skewed version of it, will be inclined to become student soldiers for the pro-Israel movement.
So when the food coop announced it would vote on a BDS resolution, SWU either asked its local recruits to join the coop or, if it was lucky, they already belonged. That’s how SWU and the consulate recruited the current crop of litigants. And to be clear, you’ll hear the consulate shrey that they had nothing to do with this and that it was solely an internal matter worked out among the complaining coop members. But in this matter I make virtually no distinction between SWU and the Israeli government. The two are working hand in glove and whatever the consulate can’t or won’t do because it is a foreign entity, SWU does for it. In that sense, SWU in this matter really is what many accuse Aipac of being, an agent for a foreign power.
Now, once they had the litigants they needed to recruit a willing local pro-Israel Jewish attorney. Through the good graces of SWU or the consulate they found Avi Lipman, who’s taken the case. Rob Jacobs again lies when he claims he knows nothing about how the lawyer was recruited and how he’s being paid. Jacobs swears that SWU isn’t funding the lawsuit. Perhaps he’s right. But if he isn’t, then a fatcat SWU donor (like say, Aubrey Chernick or someone like him) is. And that donor was, I’d be willing to bet, recruited either by SWU or the consulate (but more likely SWU).
There’s another chilling aspect of this story as reported by EI. Ali Abunimah writes, quite convincingly, that SWU may be trying to establish a record of violations of Jewish civil rights on campuses like Evergreen (UC Santa Cruz is another campus afflicted with SWU-like complaints of Jewish harassment) in order to lobby the federal government to file suit against these campuses for creating environments hostile to the civil or religious rights of students.
If he’s correct, this would be a further ratcheting up of pressure against the BDS/anti-Occupation movement on U.S. campuses. It would take the struggle out of the realm of the purely soapbox and bring it into the the courts and the halls of government. This is lawfare perfected to a high art.
To any who might dismiss the assault against the Olympia coop as a trivial matter think on this: if SWU and the Israeli foreign ministry are willing to lavish this amount of attention and effort on a grocery store, imagine how much effort they’d be willing to devote to plying the halls of power on behalf of Israel. Imagine how slavishly SWU or the Seattle federation’s political lobbyist or Aipac are willing to monitor our local Congressional delegation seeking tell-tale signs of flagging devotion to the cause.
Returning to Rob Jacobs, he fudges or lies outright a number of times in his interview with EI. For example, he claims SWU is really a shoestring operation and that he’s devoted no more than a few hundred dollars worth of materials to the effort. What this obscures is that SWU’s national budget is over $4 million and that Jacobs himself earned nearly $100,000 in 2008. Rob Jacobs didn’t tell his interviewer how many hours he and his assistant have devoted to Olympia. If we add that to the tally this is undoubtedly a major expenditure of resources for SWU.
Jacobs attempts to downplay his role in the lawsuit:
Jacobs told The Electronic Intifada his group’s contact with the five letter writers [litigants] was largely limited to providing printed materials, helping bring in speakers and offering advice…
Although Jacobs did acknowledge working with and meeting repeatedly with the letter writers, he characterized the relationship to any potential lawsuit as arms length:
“Since we’re not actually a party to anything down there, frankly we’re not in any of the loop regarding the legal matters. Just from an attorney-client privilege standpoint anything we would do with anybody would be violating some kind of potential privilege. So, we know that they’re doing some stuff. I know they’ve been working with an attorney. I know which firm it is but beyond that we have not in any way participated in the legal discussion.”
Jacobs acknowledged attending one meeting related to the potential lawsuit.
“We were at one meeting, I don’t know how many months ago, before anything actually happened,” Jacobs explained.
“We had been asked by some of the folks down there if we knew any attorneys up here [in Seattle], so we mentioned a number of names. But I was at a meeting where they had an initial — they had not retained any attorney or developed any permanent relationship with an attorney — when they had someone there talk off-the-cuff about what an attorney could do for them.”
Compare this mumbo-jumbo to SWU’s website’s characterization of its activity in Olympia (by the way, meeting reports are no longer publicly accessible on the SWU site, makes you wonder what Rob feels he has to hide):
A “Weekly Status Report” of StandWithUs Northwest, for the week of 5-11 March 2011 states that the following meetings took place:
“Rob [Jacobs] and Carolyn in Olympia with Olympia activists, Akiva Tor and Avi Lipman on Thursday – Presentation of legal case, discussion of Evergreen strategy and Olympia community speaker opportunities.”
EI raises an important question: why did the Government of Israel find it necessary for its official representative to be present at a planning meeting for a lawsuit against the Olympia food coop. Let’s put the shoe on the other foot: would it be appropriate for the U.S. consul general in East Jerusalem to be present at a meeting during which Palestinians planned to sue the State of Israel; or at a meeting where settlers planned to sue their opponents? What does this tell you about Israel’s priorities in this country?
Jacobs’ lies are further refuted here:
The agenda for an upcoming 27 September 2011 StandWithUs Northwest Executive Committee meeting includes the following items:
- The civil rights complaint against Evergreen State College
- The law suit against the Olympia Food Co-op
16 thoughts on “Israeli Consul, StandWithUs Engage in Lawfare Against Olympia Food Coop – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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RE: “Through its campus activism, SWU has been recruiting in the community for some time. As did the David Project at Columbia, it found willing students or local community members prepared to claim their religion had been disrespected and they had been harrassed merely for being Jews. Anti-Semitism is a powerful canard.” ~ R.S.
SAME AS IT EVER WAS, SAME AS IT EVER WAS: The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics, by David Theo Goldberg and Saree Makdisi, Tikkun Magazine, September/October 2009
ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/sept_oct_09_goldberg_makdisi
dickerson – thank you so much for this link to the Tikkun article.
A must-read for all those concerned with I/P matters, particularly as to the hasbara and collegiate tactics.
The linked Northwest StandWithUs meeting reports were previously public, but now they’ve been taken down or made private. However, you can access screen shots of them here:
http://cld.bangpound.org/1B2c3H2S230p2J3j2r3q http://cld.bangpound.org/1Z3z1x3930092Z0s1o08 http://cld.bangpound.org/470R3e3u2n0E0c2P0u1S http://cld.bangpound.org/303d1p442S322Q332c2W
“…one of the claims in the letter threatening a lawsuit was that last year’s vote had instilled “a climate of fear and terror for Jews.” Say what? A vote for a boycott instills terror and fear? This is food folks, not the Warsaw Ghetto.”
No Sir, this is the thin edge of the wedge that starts with an innocent boycott but where will it end. See how the innocent BDS campaign has snowballed in Europe.
“The old anti-Jewish libels are now aimed at the State of Israel”, says Stefano Gatti, one of the top researchers at the Center for Documentation in Milan.
Or the hostile anti-Semitic campus environment at Rutgers University.
ZOA Files Complaint Against Rutgers With Office For Civil Rights Because Of Hostile Environment For Jewish Students
As stated in their goals “Stand With Us” has the right to “Effectively counter public misrepresentation and demonization of Israel”.
Jews and Jewish organizations have the right to contest any activity that they feel may be discriminatory.
“Let’s put the shoe on the other foot: would it be appropriate for the U.S. consul general in East Jerusalem to be present at a meeting during which Palestinians planned to sue the State of Israel”
Was Akiva Tor present at a meeting where it was planned to sue the federal government?.
No, he was present at a planning meeting for a lawsuit against the Olympia food coop.
I don’t know why he needed to be there and it is not the sort of thing that you would expect a consul to be doing in an official capacity (if he was there in an official capacity) but there you are, nothing sinister.
Jews have the right to live as equal citizens both in Europe and in the U.S. free from discrimination however it may be disguised.
“Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye
That’s what my mama told me when I was about knee high
She said son, be a proud man and hold your head up high
Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye”
Don’t fool yourself Richard, this is no innocent BDS campaign and thank G_d for men like Alan Dershowitz.
You’ve just presented standard hasbara as if it truth, when it’s anything but. BDS is simply a movement seeking to end the Occupation. That’s it. There is no way to get to the hysterical position you take with regard to it, while still staying in the realm of fact & truth.
Why would you bother to present a claim by ZOA here. Like SWU, it’s one of the most mendacious pro-Israel groups in this country. Totally reprehensible & not above fabricating quotations in order to smear world leaders like Desmond Tutu.
Knowing what I’ve written here about SWU both in this post & many previous ones where I’ve enumerated carefully & deliberately its many sins of commission & omission, why would you attempt to defend it?
I’m also offended by the inclusion of multiple links to groups & websites which violate my propaganda rules about linking. Link to credible, fair, balanced sites. Not pro Israel propaganda sites. If you can’t tell the diff. ask me & I’ll tell you which is which.
I don’t know for a fact that Tor wasn’t present at a meeting involving planning for the suit. There were certainly many such meetings. Do you know for a fact that he never attended such a meeting? Do you know for a fact that Rob Jacobs never dissussed or consulted w. Tor about such a lawsuit? Do you know for a fact that Tor never gave substantive input or advice or direction concerning such a suit? No, you don’t. But you can be damn sure that SWU sees itself as the eyes & ears of the Israeli gov’t on these matters. I see almost no distinction bet. them. For all intents & purposes, AKiva Tor & Rob Jacobs are Siamese twins. When one sneezes the other catches cold.
And certainly praising Der Dersh won’t win you many friends here.
As for walking tall and looking people straight in the eye, if Akiva Tor and Rob Jacobs followed the advice in that song I’d still be opposed to their views, but at least they’d be honest, straightforward & above board in their actions, instead of sneaky, underhanded & mendacious.
Jews everywhere are placing themselves outside the boundaries of decency by supporting Israeli policies. It may just be good taste and conscience to “discriminate” in the casual sense of the word both in the US and Europe and elsewhere. If they support a criminal state, then they must take the consequences.
Israel hasn’t “looked the world in the eye” ever, ever. The state has lied about everything.,..now out of pure habit.
BTW — do Palestinians have any rights at all. Can you list them for me?.
“Jews have the right to live as equal citizens both in Europe and in the U.S. free from discrimination however it may be disguised.”
This is surely one of the most ironic comments I have ever seen. Daniel, I have a very simple truth for you to chew on: If Israel’s Jews viewed the Palestinians as equals and treated them accordingly, there wouldn’t be an I/P conflict in the first place!
The phrase “climate of fear for Jews” was flung at the me, along with the other three or four organizers of the BDS bit at the Port Townsend Food CoOp last summer.
One of the places that slur was flung at me was at a meeting of the Port Townsend Food Co-op’s product research committee, some thirty people showed up to tell us that they were feeling a climate of fear, and that we were like, and I quote from my notes of that meeting: bigoted, divisive, disgusting, fringe, racist, like Hitler, like Stalin, political, prejudiced, reprehensible, ridiculous, and shameful. One of use was called a self-hating Jew, another a fake Buddhist. And this barrage was part of their attempt to explain how terrified *they* are – of us.
Personally, I found being in a room with thirty angry, shouting people identifying themselves by religious affiliation and claiming that what I want to discuss was outside the bounds of freedom of speech – kind of scary.
I *definitely* found the fact that Israel’s deputy consul general flew in from San Francisco to consult the group of scary, angry people on how to silence the BDS bid – scary.
It seems to me that agents of foreign countries have no business in the internal discussions of cooperative groceries. The discussion within our community was fascinating and worthwhile, and while the Port Townsend Food CoOp’s board of directors eventually decided to refrain from taking any decision on the facts of the case – I am glad that we had the conversation, as a local community.
Thanks for an interesting article. For further information (some redundant), here is a link to the Olympia BDS press release on the issue:
Something that is of at least local importance in this, that speaks to the motivations of the plaintiffs, and often tends to be left out, is that 3 out of the 5 plaintiffs did run for the Co-op board of directors last fall, and lost by a large margin to candidates that had publicly declared to be in support of the boycott, and now they are suing the people that won. Which is ironic given that the discourse that is out there from the plaintiffs says that one of the reasons for the suit is the lack of democratic process within the Co-op.
Great analysis. I once gave you a phone call regarding an article I was writing for the Evergreen student newspaper regarding Akiva Tor’s visit last summer. Thanks for your insight and writing on this important development!
So the boycott of Israeli products at the Olympia Co-op is a protest to the illegal and murderous actions of the Israeli government and military? And what of the illegal and murderous actions of the U.S. government and military? They pale in comparison and yet no one in Olympia is attempting to boycott U.S. products. Why this uneven application of principle? Because at its core the Olympia Co-op and its membership of disgruntled Greeners, ex-Greeners and aging hippie-wanna-be’s are following the prompts of the pro-Palestinian / anti-Israel organizations and duping themselves in the process.
As a long-time resident of Thurston County and Evergreen grad (now living in Seattle) I have watched the pro-Palestinian / anti-Israel organizations wage a well designed effort to discredit and harm the state of Israel in Thurston County and especially at the Co-op where the blithering wasteland of politically correct hippies will grasp at anything that is presented well to them. Alleged? No Richard, confirmed. While you have been staying at home taking care of the kids, I have been living in the middle of this situation. Are these coop members anti-Semitic or anti-Israel? No, they just do not realize that their actions are by extension anti-Semitic.
This PR campaign against Israel is world wide and I must give credit to the pro-Palestinian lobbies that use the media and top-flight organizational skills to hype their agenda to the public. Do Israeli supporters fight back? Yes. Are they as good? No…much worse actually… That one (or both) of these groups may have pandered up the Olympia crowd (and yes, they have both been heavily involved) is really irrelevant to the underlying principle that the actions of the Israeli government no more represents what the people of Israel want or feel any more so than the actions of the American government represent ours and the U.S. is much more murderous than ours.
Sorry I failed to collect the plethora of anti-Israel literature spread around Evergreen and the Co-op over the years Richard, if I had ever imagined that I would have to substantiate the fact to a house-bound blogger I would have saved boxes of them…
The issue is clear: pro-Palestinian groups wage campaign; pro-Israel groups counter; complete truth is not part of either agenda. Not news Richard, but your hyperbole on this issue serves no meaningful purpose other than to stir the pot making this world a lesser place…the exact opposite of what your site claims it is trying to do.
Off topic, Read the comment rules & stay ON TOPIC.
That coop only has 30,000 members out of a community of at most a few hundred thousand. For you to attempt to marginalize their beliefs in this way is pathetic. If Israel saw them as you do it would never have wasted its time recruiting five fellow travelers and filing a lawsuit on their behalf (oops, at their direction).
I find this sort of ad hominem attack to lack substance, violate my comment rules, & to be just plain infantile. If that’s the extent of yr argument & you return & do the same, you’ll be moderated. Read the comment rules. Further, this isn’t a hasbara forum in which you feel the need t balance anti Israel hasbara. That’s not what I’m about nor is it what I allow in my comment threads. So if you’re here to score pts for the good guys, forget about it.
Another very specific & major comment rule violation. You will not confuse criticism of Israel w. anti Semitism. Do it again & you’ll be moderated.
I’m not house-bound you blithering idiot. What do think I am, an invalid? But I note that you haven’t been able to find a single piece of offending campus literature, & this assumes the offensive behavior continues as I write this & you could merely go on campus yrself & get it for appropriate display.
When the hasbara brigade tell you the issue is “clear” you know they’re bringing out the big smoke machines.
Only if you view the world as a place in which diminishing Israel Jewish rights by even a scintilla in order to increase the rights of Palestinians is treif. So you really mean that my goal is to make the world a lesser place for maximalist rejectionists like Stand With Us, you & the other legions in the hasbara brigade. To this I plead guilty.
During the Birmingham bus boycott, people still rose in trains.
During the farm workers’ grape boycott, people still ate lemons.
The call to boycott is by the group that is asking for solidarity. It’s not a suggestion that people boycott things in general.
Ben “Jammin”, I’m quite sure you understand that. You are just using that tired old objection because you don’t want your pet country to be boycotted. Nice try, but it won’t work on those of us who’ve heard it again and again and again and again. It’s not about the religion; it’s about supporting the victims. It’s not about Jews, it’s about Israel’s ongoing attack on Palestinians. Jews don’t have to support Israeli crimes. Really they don’t. That’s a choice that some of you make. Some don’t.
Have we really stooped so low as a people to where some of us would bring civil action against a food coop?
Another dark day for Jews and Israelis.
I wish some of us would realize we are now our own worst enemies.
I lived in Oly for years. These people at the Co-op really have no understanding what they’re doing let alone have any idea what’s going on in the Middle East. They do it because it makes them feel better…it’s one of the reasons I left Thurston County – to get away from those Co-op people!
and if I still lived there I’d sue ’em for shits & giggles…I don’t need any Israelis telling me what to do!