Category Archives: News

Olympia BDS supports the American Studies Association’s BDS vote

OlympiaBDS supports the American Studies Association (ASA), “the nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the
interdisciplinary study of American culture and history” (www.theasa.net), that has recently adopted the academic boycott of Israel. The ASA has received significant negative pushback from detractors of BDS, and so we pass along this edited action statement from the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to all our supporters. Additional links and resources are described at the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s ASA action page here.


“In an act of international solidarity, in line with its historic mission to advance social justice, the American Studies Association (ASA) announced on December 16, 2013, that it endorses an academic boycott of Israeli universities. This decision came about following an open public debate at the national convention in November 2013 and an unprecedented membership-wide vote. More ASA members voted on this resolution than in any previous ballot in the association’s history. A significant majority (66.05% “yes” to 30.5% “no”) of the voting members endorsed the boycott resolution.

Many in the US are unaccustomed to public criticism of Israel. Some organizations and individuals are now mounting a campaign to discredit the ASA. The ASA’s elected leaders have been harassed and are receiving hate mail. The ASA office is being flooded with insulting and threatening phone calls. The ASA Facebook page has been subject to a barrage of inflammatory attacks. National organizations, including Stand With US, are mounting campaigns to undermine the ASA in the academy by appealing to donors and students to call on university administrators to withdraw support from ASA

Here are some actions you can take to support the ASA:

-Renew your membership in ASA, especially institutional members of the organization, and encourage other programs to become institutional members.

-Announce your support of the ASA and the right of the association to act according to the will of the membership. Denounce the campaign of intimidation against the ASA. Possibilities include letters to the editor, announcements in faith community bulletins, or sign onto the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s support letter which can also provide succinct language to use in your letter.

-Support ASA-related activities. You can find more information about the activities of the ASA here.

-Write to your congressional and state representatives and urge them to do the following:

  • Defend the academic freedom of the ASA and its membership.
  • Ensure that ASA activities are not subject to discriminatory practices.
  • Encourage and facilitate more critical discussions of the US-Israeli relationship.
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    Thank you for voting! Election results

    Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote in this year’s Co-op election! We congratulate Mohamed El-SokkaryMicheal SnowIsa Bella Rogol, and Joshua Simpson on their election and welcome their experience, commitment to community, and dedication to the Olympia Food Co-op as they begin new terms in 2014. We believe Mohamed, Micheal, Isa Bella and Josh are well-rounded individuals who bring a range of experience to the board.

    Reelected incumbent Joshua Simpson writes, “I’m excited to continue my work with the Olympia Food Co-op and help the Co-op to fulfill its mission of commitment to social, animal, and food justice through ethical purchasing and especially to work to make these choices available to all Olympians.”

    In addition, bylaws changes proposed by the board were passed by large margins, another sign that Co-op members trust the service and volunteer-driven oversight of their elected representatives.

    Please stay tuned for upcoming educational and outreach events organized by Olympia BDS, and thank you for doing your part to support democracy and justice in our community. Thank You!

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    Lawsuit Update and Endorsements for the Olympia Food Co-op Board

    We were all heartened when Superior Court Judge McPhee sided with the defendants in the lawsuit filed against Co-op board members and staff in February 2012, hoping that the costly drama of court proceedings would finally be put to rest. However, after a failed effort by the plaintiffs to make the Co-op pay for the fines imposed by state statutes which protect free speech in such cases, they then appealed their suit to the Washington State Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court kicked the case back down to an Appeals court where it still languishes.

    In fact, as another Co-op Board election opens, supporters of the lawsuit are once again working to make the election a battleground.  Nancy Koppelman, a vocal supporter of the lawsuit whose testimony was actually used in court proceedings, is one of this year’s board candidates.  Read a full account of her candidacy here, or in the October issue of Works in Progress. Despite this, we are heartened to see so many qualified and enthusiastic candidates for the Board this year.

    There are 4 particularly well-qualified candidates whose breadth of experience and understanding of boycott as one tool of nonviolent social movements make them our top choices.   Michael Snow brings extensive cooperative experience from the new New Moon Cooperative and the Flaming Eggplant Collective at Evergreen, and he cites a wider interest in developing nonhierarchical institutions in our community as a key reason for his candidacy. Mohamed El-Sokkary is an active Co-op member, owner of gluten free cookie business Smiling Mo’s Bakery, and he says the Co-op provides a “positive atmosphere for our community to come and shop enjoy healthy food  and to learn about local and global information that impacts us all.” Josh Simpson brings Board experience from other local organizations including Coffee Strong, has served one term on the Co-op Board and considers the importance of social justice  and building local networks as key motivations for continuing his service. Sally Brownfield is a longtime Co-op member and community educator who brings a breadth of experience from labor organizing to infant coops to food justice .

    Note that Kim Chaplin, listed in the print ballot,  has decided to withdraw her candidacy and delivers this message: “Due to increased time-intensive responsibilities in my life and the healthy number of qualified board candidates, I have decided not to run.”

    Please spread the word about the election, which runs from October 15th through November 15th. Ballot boxes will open at Eastside and Westside stores and ballots are printed in the October issue of the Co-op News, as well as online.  Also, make sure that you check that your membership information and particularly your address is up to date before you vote.

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    Participant in Olympia Food Co-op lawsuit runs for Co-op board of directors

    This article was first published in the October 2013 edition of Works in Progress.

    Just when you thought the ongoing lawsuit against the Olympia Food Co-op couldn’t get any stranger, one of the participants in the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs is now running for the Co-op board of directors.

    Nancy Koppelman recently declared her candidacy to the board, stating her interest “in helping the co-op continue to serve the greater Olympia community.” Yet on November 30, 2011, Koppelman signed and submitted a legal declaration in support of the lawsuit to the Thurston County Superior Court. In the declaration, she stated that the lawsuit filed against sixteen former and current Co-op board members and staff “‘fairly and adequately’ represent … Co-op members” such as herself, who “support the Plaintiffs in their lawsuit against the Defendants.”

    If Koppelman is elected, she will be leading an organization that she is involved in suing, and will be working with board members and staff who are defendants in the case. Ironically, three of the five plaintiffs in the suit ran for the board of directors in 2010 and filed their lawsuit after losing the member-wide vote.

    Koppelman also stated in her 2011 declaration that she “no longer shop[ped] at the Co-op.”

    Read the full article…

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    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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    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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