Author Archives: Admin

Lawsuit Plaintiffs Continue Attacks Against Olympia Food Co-op

In earlier filings, attorneys for the group that sued the Olympia Food Co-op over its boycott of Israeli goods argued that fines against the plaintiffs for filing an illegal SLAPP suit should be paid by the Co-op itself.

Judge Thomas McPhee ruled on February 27 that the lawsuit against the food co-op constituted an illegal ‘strategic lawsuit against public participation’ (SLAPP), because the plaintiffs filed the suit in an attempt to make it prohibitively expensive for the co-op to exercise its right to free speech. The ruling entitles the defendants, former and current members of the food co-op’s board of directors, to recoup legal fees and penalties from those suing.

In this case, the anti-SLAPP legislation protects the food co-op against the malicious lawsuit, but in an ironic turn, the plaintiffs contend that as members of the food co-op, they were suing on behalf of the store, and penalties for their illegal suit should be levied against the co-op itself.

It’s completely absurd,” said Jeff Berryhill, a working member at the co-op. “The judge ruled that this is a SLAPP suit against the co-op, and still the plaintiffs are continuing to try to make this lawsuit hurt the store.”

Read the full article…

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Statement on Boycott of Israeli Products From The Flaming Eggplant

We, The Flaming Eggplant Cafe, have decided to join the call from Palestinian civil society to boycott Israeli products. “These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.” (from the Palestinian Civil Society call for BDS)

Our Mission Statement outlines a commitment to serving socially just food. Israel’s policy of illegal land seizure and destruction on Palestinian lands means purchasing items from Israel is in conflict with our mission.

As a student-run collective with the stated principle of supporting direct action for a just and egalitarian society, and as a café representing the student body at large, we feel it is important to uphold the desire for boycott and divestment as voted for by the students at The Evergreen State College.

Contact: The Flaming Eggplant Boycott Oversight Committee, 360-867-5092, eggplantoffice@gmail.com

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Student-Run Cafe at The Evergreen State College Announces Boycott of Israeli Products

Today, the Flaming Eggplant, a student-run cafe at Olympia’s Evergreen State College, announced that they will be boycotting Israeli products. A statement, released today, reads:

Our Mission Statement outlines a commitment to serving socially just food. Israel’s policy of illegal land seizure and destruction on Palestinian lands means purchasing items from Israel is in conflict with our mission.

The Flaming Eggplant Cafe

The Flaming Eggplant Cafe

As a student-run collective with the stated principle of supporting direct action for a just and egalitarian society, and as a café representing the student body at large, we feel it is important to uphold the desire for boycott and divestment as voted for by the students at The Evergreen State College.

» Read the full statement from the Flaming Eggplant…

TESC Divest, a student-led organization that works to end Evergreen State College’s complicity in Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights, has issued a press release:

On Monday June 4, 2012 The Flaming Eggplant Café, a student worker collective at The Evergreen State College (TESC), formally announced its decision to boycott Israeli goods, becoming the most recent business to join the growing international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

According to the Flaming Eggplant’s mission statement, one of the cafe’s goals is to “nourish the local food system by making delicious, healthy, ecologically and socially just food accessible to all.” In its statement of principles the collective also expresses its commitment to “supporting political participation and direct action to create a just and egalitarian society.”

Office Coordinator Cris Papaiacovou said, “We came to a consensus as a collective to support the Palestinian civil society call for BDS because it is directly in line with our mission and statement of principles.” He added, “We are proud to join this non-violent movement to pressure Israel until it ends its human rights violations against Palestinians.”

» Read the full press release at the TESC Divest website…

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Lawsuit Against Olympia Food Co-op Declared Illegal Lawsuit Against Public Participation

Judge: Lawsuit Violates Washington Free Speech Protections

February 27, 2012 – Olympia, WA – In a landmark ruling, Judge Thomas McPhee has declared a lawsuit against the Olympia Food Coop illegal under Washington State law and awarded legal fees and sanctions to the defendants. Lawyers for the Olympia Food Co-op argued in court that a lawsuit brought against the store for its participation in a boycott of Israeli goods should be dismissed as illegal under Washington’s anti-SLAPP legislation.

Washington law forbids SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation), which target the right of free speech by forcing defendants into costly legal battles. Despite ultimately being found meritless, these suits make the exercise of constitutionally protected speech costly and difficult. “This ruling has huge implications for justice,” says Rochelle Gause, a board member and defendant in the lawsuit, adding “with growing awareness around this issue, the bullying and intimidation employed by those who defend Israeli Human Rights abuses at all costs is becoming less and less viable. Hopefully this judgment will open up the door for more businesses and organizations to heed the call and join this movement for human dignity.”

We are pleased the Court found this case to be what it is – an attempt to chill free speech on a matter of public concern. This sends a message to those trying to silence support of Palestinian human rights to think twice before they bring a lawsuit,” said Maria LaHood, a senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including several failed candidates for the board of directors, wrote that the coming suit was intended to hamper the Co-op’s ability to participate in the boycott of Israeli goods. The letter, dated May 31, 2011, states in part that “we will bring legal action against you,” and that the execution of the boycott would become “complicated, burdensome, and expensive.” In response, the board of directors reiterated that the proper process for overturning a boycott is a “member-initiated ballot”, and that the opponents of the boycott could put it to a vote of the membership, and Judge McPhee noted that the plaintiffs offered no evidence that they exhausted all manner of challenging boycott.

The opponents of this boycott have had every opportunity to rescind the boycott using the fair and democratic process laid out in the Co-op bylaws,” says Johan Genberg, a longtime co-op member, adding “[The plaintiffs] wanted to punish the store for speaking out for social justice, but isn’t that exactly what makes the Olympia Food Co-op unique? The store reflects the values of this community.”

Farihan Bushnaq, a Co-op member since 1983 adds “as a Palestinian refugee and a member of the Olympia Co-op I wholeheartedly support the boycott, as a way to save Israel from its own excesses, and to end the continued dehumanization of the Palestinian people under Israeli control.”

Read the full article…

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Constitutional Rights Attorneys Urge Court to Dismiss Lawsuit Filed Over Boycott of Israeli Goods

(Press Release from Center for Constitutional Rights, press@ccrjustice.org)

Suing Co-op for Participating in Human Rights Boycott Violates Anti-SLAPP Statute, Lawyers Say

February 23, 2012, Olympia, WA and New York, NY – Today, in a lawsuit brought against current and former members of the Olympia Food Co-op board of directors for their decision to boycott Israeli goods, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP argued in a court hearing that the case should be dismissed because it is an effort to chill the board’s public statements on an issue of public interest. The lawsuit was filed by five co-op members, purporting to bring the suit on behalf of the co-op itself, which has approximately 22,000 members. The boycott is part of a global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel for what boycotters say are violations of international law and the denial of Palestinian human rights.

This boycott is part of a rich tradition of free speech and nonviolent protest, including the Civil Rights Movement and the movement against South African apartheid,” said Maria LaHood, a senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “The court should strike down this effort to silence the co-op board’s principled stand on Israel’s human rights violations – a stand it had every right to take, regardless of whether one agrees with it.

Before the co-op case was filed, the plaintiffs’ lawyer sent the co-op board members a letter indicating that plaintiffs would bring a “complicated, burdensome, and expensive” legal action if the co-op did not end the boycott. At today’s hearing, defendant’s lawyers argued that the resulting lawsuit is a SLAPP—Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation. 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.

“The board’s boycott decision is a classic exercise of freedom of speech, and, because it involves a matter of intense public concern, it is clearly protected by the new law,” said Bruce E.H. Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, who drafted Washington State’s Anti-SLAPP law.

Read the full article…

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NEW DATE: First Court Hearing re:Anti-BDS Lawsuit

When: Feb 23, 9:00 am - 12:00 am
Where: Thurston County Superior Court, Olympia, WA,

The first court hearing for the lawsuit against the Co-op is scheduled for Thursday, February 23 at 9:00 AM at Thurston County Superior Court. The lawsuit against the Co-op has been launched in the context of increasingly belligerent backlash against the burgeoning global movement for Palestinian rights, and the outcome of this lawsuit will have profound implications, not only for the rights of communities to engage in BDS, but for the rights of all kinds of movements to take stands against injustice.

I love Olympia Food Co-opThe Co-op’s legal team, which includes lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, has filed a motion to strike this lawsuit as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP suit, which have long been used to undermine social and environmental justice movements by way of legal and financial intimidation.

Read the full article…

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Lawfare and the Criminalization of Dissent: The Irvine 11 and the Co-op

When: Jan 31, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Where: Traditions Cafe, 5th and Water, Olympia

Islamophobia is on the rise, and the movement for Palestinian rights is coming under increasingly aggressive attacks from its pro-Israel opponents. This coming Tuesday, UC Irvine graduate and member of the “Irvine 11″ Osama Shabaik and local organizer Andrew Meyer will make connections between what at first appear as two unrelated developments – the unjust arrest and conviction of 11 UC Irvine students who were protesting at a campus speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, and the filing of an unjust lawsuit against past and present board members of the Olympia Food Co-op over its boycott of Israeli goods.

Stand With the Irvine 11Osama will speak about the ways in which the experiences of the Irvine 11 are tied to Islamophobia, infringements upon free speech, and the criminalization of dissent. Andrew will then link the experiences of the Irvine 11 to Olympia’s own experience of legal intimidation, showing how both the crackdown on the Irvine 11 and the lawsuit against the Co-op are part of an increasingly belligerent campaign against the growing movement for Palestinian liberation.

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Go to the event page…

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Olympia Food Co-op Files Motion to Strike Lawsuit Seeking to Penalize Exercise of Free Speech

Olympia, WA. On behalf of the Olympia Food Co-op, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP filed a motion to strike the lawsuit that has been filed against the Co-op in response to its boycott of Israeli products. The motion asserts that the lawsuit is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), a form of legal and financial intimidation, popularly dubbed “lawfare,” which has long been used to undermine social and environmental justice movements by penalizing political participation and free speech.

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.”

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,” says Bruce Johnson, author of Washington’s Anti-SLAPP Law, a member of the Co-op’s legal team. In the past, Johnson has represented organizations such as The Yes Men, and successfully motioned to dismiss invasion of privacy and misappropriation claims relating to the documentary film Sicko by Michael Moore.

The lawsuit is part of a fierce response to the growing global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel until it ends its occupation of Palestine, respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and gives equal rights to Palestinians living inside of Israel. This backlash is coming from pro-Israel groups as well as directly from the Israeli Government, which recently passed a law that criminalizes advocating for boycotts of Israel.

In meeting minutes, the lawsuit is referred to as a “project” of the Executive Committee of StandWithUs Northwest, an international pro-Israel and anti-boycott lobby group. In Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon confirmed the Israeli government’s involvement in anti-boycott efforts outside of Israel:

It is very important to make use of all the means at our disposal, primarily judicial means…We are certainly moving here to a policy that is much more pro-active and not only reactive, and it is true – we are using…StandWithUs for leverage. There are also other organizations that we cooperate with…[and] this is certainly a trend that will get stronger.

Read the full article…

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Co-op Board Election 2011 – Voter’s Guide

A year has already passed since the Co-op membership voted in five candidates that had all stated support of the boycott of Israeli products. This year, 4 seats are up for election, and there is a total of 6 candidates. The deadline for voting is November 15.

From a BDS perspective, we have summarized each candidates stated stand on the Co-op’s current boycott of Israeli products. As far as we know, only one candidate, Keith Dublanica, has taken an active stand against the boycott, when he urged the former board to rescind the boycott last fall. See more details below!

The most important thing: Go to the Co-op and VOTE before November 15!

Also, like last year, Olympia BDS has sent out a questionnaire of additional questions to each candidate, in co-operation with the local organizations Bridges Not Walls, Olympia Seed Exchange, and POWER. Board members at the Co-op will work on a large number of issues, some of which we hope are reflected in the answers to our questions. Click here to see all the responses!

The Candidates and the Boycott of Israeli Goods

Cezanne Murphy-Levesque says generally about boycotts that “I have an inherent desire to protect the human rights of all people, so I choose to participate. I believe I share this desire with most folks and this is why boycotts work.” Also, specifically about the current boycott: “I would like to see the Co-op do more to educate members and the greater community about past and current boycott participation. There is still a significant rift in the community regarding the Israeli product boycott. I think that the Co-op should consider another round of public meetings to keep the conversation going.”


Joshua Simpson has come out in strong support of the boycott, saying “I cannot think of a more peaceful way to oppose the occupation and oppression of the people of Palestine than continuing the current boycott” as an answer to our question.


Joseph Webster said in response to our question that “Any political entity guilty of injustice and oppression should be boycotted. In regard to the boycott of Israeli goods, I think the Co-op’s stand is correct because I do not think that any sane person on this planet would want to be treated as the Palestinians are, not even Israelis.”


RobRob Richards was one of the board members who initially consented to institute the boycott, for which he is now being sued. At the advice of his legal council, he chose not to answer any questions on the boycott of Israeli Goods, and says “I have a clear record on this issue that can be drawn from.”


Allyson Ruppenthal has not made any statements on the boycott that we are aware of.


Keith M. Dublanica says in his statement in the Co-op newsletter that “I maintain concerns from issues with the boycott. I thought due process and appropriate communication to the membership was not visible.” Also, in a letter to the Co-op board last fall, he urged the board to rescind the boycott before the newly elected board members took office: “Rescind and recall the decision. The Board risks a recall, or at least certainly a turnover at the coming election in the near future. You can take the right step now and not pass this on to your successors.”


Read the full article…

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Co-op Board Candidate Questionnaire 2011

Together with the community organizations Bridges Not Walls, Olympia Seed Exchange, and POWER, Olympia BDS have put together four questions, one from each organization, to the candidates in this years election for the Olympia Food Co-op Board of Directors. We hope that voters will find this helpful when choosing who to vote for, as additional materials to what is already printed in the latest Co-op newsletter. The questionnaire is part of our Voter’s Guide.

The deadline for voting is November 15th. For more details on how to vote, see the current Co-op Newsletter or the Olympia BDS’ Voter’s Guide, that also includes a breakdown on where the candidates stand on BDS. Read the full article…

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