Yesterday, the Olympia Food Coop finally announced its legal representation and strategy regarding the lawsuit filed against it by Stand With Us in collaboration with the State of Israel and its Pacific NW consul, Akiva Tor. Though the suit argued that the organization violated its bylaws in approving a BDS measure which excluded nine Israeli products from its shelves, the measure was meant to intimidate all U.S. businesses which attempt to pursue such policies.
The Food Coop, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and local counsel, Davis Wright Tremaine, have filed an Anti-SLAPP motion arguing that the lawsuit is a frivolous measure designed to impede the organization’s right to take a position on an important political issue of the day, that is also directly to its business (that is, refusing to carry Israeli food products as an expression of opposition to Israeli Occupation):
“We hope the court will strike down this effort to silence the Co-op’s principled stand on Israel’s human rights violations,” said Maria LaHood, Senior Staff Attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Allegations that the Co-op Board acted beyond its power are a thinly-veiled attempt to stop concerned citizens from using a nonviolent and historical tool for social change.”
The group’s local counsel also made a statement defending the Coop board:
“This lawsuit, which seeks to penalize local citizens for exercising their rights as Board members to express views on Israel and the problems in the Middle East, presents a fundamental First Amendment issue,” said Bruce E.H. Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, who drafted Washington State’s Anti-SLAPP law. “Our nation was born in the middle of a boycott of British goods, and boycotts have played an important role over the centuries in our system of freedom of expression, whether the subject is segregation on the Montgomery municipal bus system, lettuce picked by non-union labor, or apartheid in South Africa,” he added.
Until now, the Food Coop has been beset with false reporting by JTNews regarding the nature of the lawsuit and the figures pursuing it. My expectation is that now, it will be able to vigorously defend and explain itself to the world.
I’ve reported here previously that Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister acknowledged in an Israeli TV interview that his government was directly supporting such anti-BDS campaigns, implying the MFA was either directly funding the lawsuits or
As someone similarly harassed by a libel suit, my attorneys attempted to use the California anti-SLAPP provision to strike that suit. Our initially successful efforts were overturned by the Court of Appeal and we eventually won our case through a long, complicated and expensive (to my law firm, which represented me pro bono) trial. My hope is that the current case can be disposed of without such waste of effort, energy and resources. Clearly, the Israeli government and its SWU handmaidens seek to use the tools of lawfare to tie up their opponents in useless court procedures as punishment for speaking their minds on a matter of public import.