Israel advocates lose legal battle over Olympia Food Co-op boycott

The Olympia Food Co-op adopted a boycott of Israeli goods in 2010. (via Rachel Corrie Foundation)

A near decade-long legal battle over the Olympia Food Co-op’s decision to boycott Israeli goods has finally been put to rest.

Opponents of Palestinian rights, working in coordination with Israel, lost.

On 20 February, a Washington state appeals court upheld a 2018 ruling that dismissed a lawsuit against former board members of the Co-op.

In 2010, the Olympia Food Co-op became the first grocery store in the US to remove Israeli goods from its shelves as part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights.

“As a co-defendant, I am pleased, but not surprised, that the courts have once again found in our favor,” said Grace Cox, a former Co-op board member.

Board members like Cox, who supported a measure to ban Israeli products from the store’s shelves, were put through years of litigation by several former Co-op members who worked closely with the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs.

The right-wing Israel lobby group helped secretly plan the lawsuit in coordination with Israeli government officials.

The plaintiffs sought to block the store’s boycott and secure monetary damages against board members who voted in favor of the measure.

A judge initially dismissed the lawsuit in 2012, saying it violated a state law preventing abusive lawsuits aimed at suppressing lawful public participation, otherwise known as SLAPP suits.

Two years later, an appeals court upheld that judge’s ruling and the plaintiffs were ordered to pay $160,000 in statutory damages – $10,000 to each of the 16 co-op board members – as well as other legal fees.

The pro-Israel activists then took their case to the state supreme court, which sent it back to the lower courts in 2015.

In December 2017, co-op board members filed a motion to finally dismiss the lawsuit, which the court did in March 2018.

“When the plaintiffs first threatened to sue us, they promised a nuisance lawsuit, and they have delivered. It is well past time to end this abuse of the legal system by ending this baseless suit,” Cox stated last week.


The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented the defendants during the entire legal battle, says that during the process of uncovering evidence, emails were revealed between the plaintiffs “celebrating the news from StandWithUs that the lawsuit had successfully discouraged other co-ops from boycotting Israeli goods.”

The Israel advocacy group “took credit for filing the case, stating that it was a byproduct of the partnership between StandWithUs and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” CCR notes.

“The Court of Appeals properly deferred to the business judgment of the Co-op board in making their boycott decision, which is a fundamental principle of governance that applies to every nonprofit corporation,” said Bruce E.H. Johnson, an attorney who also represented co-op board members.

“In the face of widespread assault, the right to advocate for Palestinian freedom, including via the time-honored tradition of boycotts for social change, has again been vindicated,” said Maria LaHood, CCR’s deputy legal director.

“This victory demonstrates that although the fight can be long, it’s necessary in order to achieve justice,” she added.




so ... are the plaintiffs still require to pay the damages ? Certainly hope so. This kind of lawsuit is unAmerican and needs to be EXPOSED and punished.


Every once in a while it is articles such as this one that gives me hope .Hope that there is still justice being served once in a while in spite of a very big monied lobby to suppress it.


“In the face of widespread assault, the right to advocate for Palestinian freedom, including via the time-honored tradition of boycotts for social change, has again been vindicated,”


This is a victory necessary on a lot of levels. Most of all because it shows that in spite of the attitude of the American government, not all American people are supporters of the racist fascist apartheid colonial zionist settler entity in Occupied Palestine.


A great victory for the movement for Palestinian rights but also crucially for the co-operative movement. The Democracy Collaborative is showing the way and the example of the Cleveland Evergreen Initiative, one amongst many and highly successful, indicates a new economy is not just possible but is being built in America today. The interesting thing here is the comparison with the Zionist Labour movement, which always was contradictory and sure to fail. Co-ops are not just about better economics, they are based on the notion of human equality. You can't elaborate a co-operative economy on the foundations of racial superiority and inferiority. That's why the kibbutzim project withered. There has to be an underpinning recognition of human identity. The differences between us are important and exciting. They attract us to one another. They are interesting. The positive recognition of creative difference is a great boon. Its contrary is the negative concentration on superficial differences: skin colour principally. The extension of this into cultural realms so that followers of one religion hate another or petty discrepancies in habits are taken as indicators of fundamental difference is characteristic of the depressing hatred and fear of difference. The paradox is that our differences unite us. We may speak many languages but we are all linguistic. The boycott of Israeli goods should spread through the co-operative movement. There is no place for Israeli apartheid in the drive for equality, co-operation and rationality. We celebrate difference and let it bring us together. Racists fear and hate it. They embrace a false sense of uniqueness. We say: "This is my uniqueness, what's yours?" And what kind of democracy would it be where an enterprise can't choose where it buys from and what it sells? Aren't Israelis supposed to be democrats and in favour of open trade (except for Palestinians).

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).