Boycott Israel 521.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – A food co-op board of directors Tuesday filed a motion in Washington
state to strike a lawsuit brought against them by five members who objected to
the co-op’s decision to initiate a boycott of Israeli goods.
In 2010, the
Olympia Food Co-op board passed a resolution to boycott Israeli goods, and then
became the first grocery store in the United States to officially boycott them.
The co-op is a member-based, not-for-profit, natural food grocery store with two
locations in Olympia, Washington.
Olympia is the hometown of Rachel
Corrie, a pro-Palestinian activist killed by an IDF bulldozer in the Gaza Strip
in 2003 when she was in front of a home about to be demolished.
candidates endorsed by Olympia Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions were elected to
the co-op’s board, which voted to boycott Israeli products as a way to “compel
Israel to follow international law and respect Palestinian human rights,”
according to a statement the board released.
Lawyers for the Olympia Food
Coop Board of Directors filed a motion to strike the lawsuit, saying the suit
was an attempt to curtail the directors’ public statements on an issue of public
“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 lawyer 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.”
“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 Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, who drafted Washington’s anti-
SLAPP. “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
The lawsuit seeks to prevent enforcement of the boycott policy
and to collect monetary damages against the 16 past and current board members.
The suit claims the board members acted beyond the scope of their authority and
breached their fiduciary duties.
The special motion to strike requires
parties who bring a lawsuit to demonstrate that it is not a strategic litigation
against public participation — SLAPP — suit targeting constitutionally-
protected free speech.
If the motion to strike is successful,
Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute, enacted in 2010 to deter such lawsuits,
requires plaintiffs to pay lawyers’ fees, costs, and a $10,000 penalty for each