Israeli Foreign Ministry Sponsoring U.S. BDS Lawsuits
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.
9 thoughts on “Israeli Foreign Ministry Sponsoring U.S. BDS Lawsuits – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Thanks for the article. One factual inaccuracy: only three of the plaintiffs ran for the board last fall, not all five.
The footage from Olympia in the Channel 10 clip comes from the film Challenging Power (http://www.trickleupfilms.org/challenging-power) a short documentary on the Oly Food Co-op Boycott.
Thanks for correcting that error. And thanks as well for making the documentary. Had I known about yr efforts I would’ve put you in touch with the news segment producer for an interview. Sorry about that.
But where I do begin to have a problem is when these groups become agents of a foreign government.
Dual nationals are subversives. Someone should lead a campaign to have them swear allegiance to one country or another.
It’s like a woman, she cannot be married to men at the same time.
Since most of the Israeli American’s are extremists (Kahane sympathists) if it were put to the test, most of them would sell out America for Israel. That is evident, in that they support candidate for what they can do for Israel and pretend it’s for the good of the USA.
Why aren’t Americans demanding loyalty allegiance laws for dual citizens? I have seen time and again, dual Israeli Americans, merely see the US as a tool to manipulate for their agenda, which goes against the interests of the USA.
This BDS case manipulation is just a small symptom of this problem.
I meant to say, Likud sympathisers too, not just Kahane, and Moshe Feiglin, Lieberman, and all the other assorted distasteful characters that Israel has.
This lawsuit is motivated by anti-BDS fever, but the lawsuit itself appears to be a suit by members of a membership organization to compel its leadership to play by the established rules.
It is very hard to understand why the CO-OP did not immediately back down (indeed, before a lawsuit was launched) and submit the issue of boycott to whatever voting (or other) procedures are set forth ion its own rules.
I’d love to see established procedures authorize BDS. But I’d hate to see the CO-OP itself brought down (via money damages, though its a bit hard to understand how the complainants can have suffered any injuries properly compensable by money) because they “jumped the tracks” even in so good a cause as BDS.
The influence the Israeli government wields in the US completely unchecked is really scary. It amazes me that larger media institutions do not cover this as much as they would cover Kim Kardashian’s wedding…
I too am concerned about this dual loyalty nonsense. I think the time may come, in a backlash, where people like Richard Perle are charged with treason.
All the “real” co-op has to show is that it followed procedures or, failing that, it will follow procedures. But, the key thing here is to get press to identify the sponsorship so that Americans can see and hear how anti-free speech the Israeli government is. That’s certainly worth something.