Electronic Intifada and I have been reporting on the Olympia Food Coop BDS lawsuit brought by five members who claim the business violated its procedures by approving a boycott on nine Israeli products in its stores. Up till now, we knew that Stand With Us and the Israeli consul general, Akiva Tor were instrumental in the process of initiating the suit as the SWU website indicates they attended key meetings at which decisions were made about the legal case including hiring of an attorney.
But now Tzinor Layla, Israel’s Channel 10 news program (at 3:04 of the above video) confirms via an interview with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, that the Israeli government itself is willing to sponsor these lawsuits and presumably paying the legal bills. Frankly, I find it astonishing that a foreign government would sue a U.S. company for such an alleged infraction. First, I’ve never heard of a foreign government suing any overseas company for supporting a boycott against it; and second, I’ve never heard of a government initiating a lawsuit against an overseas company for political, as opposed to pecuniary reasons.
In interviews they gave to Electronic Intifada, Rob Jacobs of StandWithUs and Akiva Tor, Israeli consul general in the Pacific NW lied when the first claimed he knew nothing about where the funding for the lawsuit was coming from and the second lied when he claimed that he, and by extension his government had nothing to do with the suit. You’d have thought that Tor and Jacobs would’ve coördinated things better with their bosses back in Tel Aviv. Let’s watch to see how Tor and Jacobs worm their way out of this one.
In my earlier post I called this the pro-Israel version of lawfare, that noxious concept touted by Alan Dershowitz to deride human rights activists having the chutzpah to demand Israeli accountability for their actions. It is a deliberate attempt to interfere with, and destroy American businesses willing to take a position that angers the Israeli state. I say this is un-American and that it violates basic rights to free speech. Besides lawfare, this is a perfect example of a SLAPP (strategic limitation of public participation) suit. That is, a frivolous use of the legal system to strategically limit public participation in an issue that is rightfully part of social discourse. On its merits, the Washington courts should throw this sucker out. But the problem, as I’ve found, is that judges sometimes either get the law wrong or wish to allow a plaintiff to get his or her moment in court. So they refuse to do the right and proper thing. We’ll have to see how this plays out.
Concerning Stand With Us’ involvement in this process, an Israeli journalist who’s followed the group’s activities inside Israel and abroad told me: “Stand With Us is an unofficial arm of the Israeli government.” In this blog, you’ve heard me often talk about groups like NGO Monitor, Im Tirzu, Middle East Forum, The Israeli Project and Stand With Us as doing the bidding of the Israeli government. You’ve heard me claim that they closely coördinate their activities with the government and in effect become its mouthpiece. But this is the first direct confirmation that SWU, at the very least, is literally joined at the hip with the MFA. In the video Ayalon specifically confirms the government’s “partnership” with SWU and acknowledges it has similar partnerships with other Jewish and non-Jewish American organizations. No sense of discretion here. Israel, under the Lieberman-Ayalon Plan, will throw its weight around the world, even attempting to smash food coops in Washington State.
Personally, I don’t mind having Israel lobby type organizations advancing their political agenda. After all, that’s free speech and the American way. But where I do begin to have a problem is when these groups become agents of a foreign government. Of course, people like Rob Jacobs and Roz Rothstein are oblivious to the implications because for them loyalty to Israel is the same as loyalty to the U.S. The interests of the two are virtually the same. That’s the poison of this notion of pro-Israelism which posits no free will or independence on the part of American Jews and their leadership.
I’m hoping to inform the five litigants suing the Olympia Food Coop that they are fronts for the Israeli government in this matter. It may not change their minds, but I hope it will at least give them pause.
One aspect of the legal strategy of the plaintiffs I find odd. Since they are members of the coop they are filing their suit AS the coop. They are claiming that they truly represent the coop and its interests whereas the board and staff and everyone else who voted to endorse the boycott are either impostors or abusers of the coop’s bylaws. Keep in mind, that these five all ran for the Coop board and lost by a wide margin. Another shrewd aspect of the legal thinking in this case is not to argue the merits or demerits of BDS. The litigants know that not only will they fail if they put the issue to a vote, they know that a U.S. court would throw out a lawsuit against a company that was purely politically motivated. The only possible legal grounds they have is to argue that the coop board violated its own bylaws in endorsing BDS. Keep in mind too that all this brouhaha is over nine Israeli products taken off the shelves.