Jewish group hails BDS legal victory
Link to Legal Team Press Release: scr.bi/OlyCoopWin
JVP Open letter in support of the Coop: bit.ly/OlyCoopLetter
Contact: Barbara Harvey, blmharvey AT sbcglobal.net
Jewish group hails Olympia Food Coop BDS legal victory
JVP Members play role in successful defense of lawsuit
[February 28, 2012} Jewish Voice for Peace hailed the victory of the Olympia, WA Food Coop against a lawsuit filed to shut down its boycott of Israeli products. A Washington State court dismissed the case, calling it a SLAPP – Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation – and said that it would award the defendants’ attorneys’ fees, costs, and sanctions.
Jewish Voice for Peace supports the aims of peace activists who use boycott to pressure Israel into being accountable to international law. While we focus our efforts on boycott or divestment campaigns that directly target Israel's occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip, we reject the assertion that broader campaigns are inherently anti-Semitic. We are committed to defending peace activists around the world who employ the full range of BDS tactics when they are demonized or wrongly accused of anti-Semitism.
In solidarity with the Palestinian Boycott National Committee and other Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations, JVP has initiated and sustained the largest divestment campaign mounted in the United States for Palestinian human rights -– the growing movement to induce investment giant TIAA-CREF to divest of its holdings in companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Boycott National Committee stands fully behind the JVP-initiated TIAA-CREF campaign, and has urged “all groups working on boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns in the U.S., especially on university campuses, to endorse this campaign and join it, whenever possible, to amplify its reach and impact across the U.S.”
From the JVP Open Letter released before the decision: (bit.ly/OlyCoopLetter)
"Compelled by Jewish values of Chesed, Rachamim, and Tikkun Olam (compassion, loving-kindness, and our duty to heal the world), we encourage you to drop the lawsuit and to adhere to the co-op's established process for a member-initiated vote. Finally, we assert that the tactics of boycott, divestment, and sanctions are a viable, democratic, and non-violent response to the horrific policies used by the state of Israel against Palestinians."
The Coop victory will resonate far beyond Washington State because it represents a successful blow against a broader pattern of intimidation by advocates for illegal Israeli settlement expansion who use legal mechanisms and boy-who-cried-wolf definitions of anti-Semitism to try to silence free and open debate and obstruct personal choice. A few examples include a lawsuit against former President Jimmy Carter for using the word “Apartheid” in his book title about Israel (http://www.thejc.com/united-states/44571/jimmy-carter-sued-israel-apartheid-book) ; lawsuits at UC Berkeley accusing the school of being anti-semitic (http://www.dailycal.org/2012/02/05/amended-complaint-filed-in-lawsuit-alleging-anti-semitism/ ), and the use of new civil rights legislation changes to make multiple complaints of anti-Semitism http://www.forward.com/articles/149618/ )
Jewish Voice for Peace and National Lawyer's Guild member attorney Barbara Harvey brought in the Center for Constitutional Rights, which won the case, and assisted in the defense. Further, hundreds of Jewish Voice for Peace supporters from Washington State signed an open letter in defense of the boycott.
Barbara Harvey, Lawyer: "This lawsuit was filed against volunteer board members of a socially conscientious and progressive nonprofit food co-op to intimidate and coerce the Co-op into retracting its boycott against Israeli products. The suit violated the right under Washington's anti-SLAPP law to engage in free speech on matters of pubic concern, without fear of being bankrupted by a burdensome lawsuit. The Co-op's victory is a victory for everyone in this country who treasures the right to speak out on matters of public concern without being sued for doing so."
From the Legal Team's explanation of SLAPP's: SLAPPs are lawsuits that target the constitutional rights of free speech and petition in connection with an issue of public concern Although many cases that qualify as SLAPPs are without legal merit, they can nonetheless effectively achieve their primary purpose: to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending against a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources, and can divert attention away from the public issue and intimidate and silence other speakers. Washington State’s Anti-SLAPP statute was enacted in 2010 to deter such lawsuits.