Court dismisses lawsuit against Olympia Food Co-op over Israel boycott

Activists hold signs in support of the Olympia Food Co-op, which adopted a boycott of Israeli goods in 2010. (Rachel Corrie Foundation)

A Washington state court on Friday moved to end a lengthy legal campaign against former board members of the Olympia Food Co-op over their decision to support a boycott of Israeli goods.

“It’s a huge victory that’s been a long time coming,” said Maria LaHood, deputy legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is part of the legal team representing the defendants.

In 2010 the co-op became the first grocery store in the US to boycott Israeli goods as part of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights.

A state court dismissed the lawsuit filed in 2011 by five former members of the board working closely with the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs. The plaintiffs sought to block the co-op’s boycott and secure monetary damages against board members who voted in favor of the measure.

A judge 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, a court of appeals 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.

Plaintiffs then took their case to the state supreme court, which sent it back to the lower courts in 2015.

In December, current co-op board members filed a motion to finally dismiss the lawsuit, which the court did on 9 March.

The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a document with the court last week which showed that plaintiffs boasted that the lawsuit had discouraged other co-ops from implementing similar measures, while admitting they had accepted funds from StandWithUs.

StandWithUs, which has received substantial funding from the Israeli government to help push the state’s political agenda on social media, acknowledged it had partnered with Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs to bring the lawsuit forth.

Broad implications

The protracted court battle over the Olympia Food Co-op’s boycott of Israeli goods is part of a growing pattern of suppression of activism and speech in support of Palestinian rights, the Center for Constitutional Rights stated.

The civil liberties group Palestine Legal has documented nearly 1,000 incidents of suppression targeting Palestinian rights advocacy in the US over the last four years.

As pro-Israel organizations continue to harass BDS supporters and push anti-BDS legislation at local, state and federal levels in the US, the Washington court’s dismissal of the Olympia Food Co-op lawsuit has broad implications.

“Meritless lawsuits targeting boycotts of Israel will not be successful – not in individual cases, not in squelching the movement, and not in the annals of history,” LaHood told The Electronic Intifada.

A federal judge in Kansas recently blocked enforcement of a state law punishing BDS supporters over concerns it violates free speech protections.

The American Civil Liberties Union has meanwhile filed a suit against a similar law in Arizona, asserting that it violates the First Amendment.

LaHood said that with each court defeat handed down to those seeking to dampen Palestinian rights advocacy, the less they will resort to lawsuits and legislation.

And the more that Israel boycotts “are the subject of litigation and legislation,” LaHood added, “the more public awareness rises – both about Israel’s human rights violations as well as the bullying tactics used to punish [those] exposing them.”




Israel is running out of low road along that dirty law-fare highway. And the more unconstitutional laws they ram through on the local, state and national level, the more they'll be challenged and lose.

It never ceases to amaze, with all the contrived hysteria about Russia, that the unprecedented meddling by Israel in American politics seems to draw no traction with liberals. It's a given, part of the normal scene. Well, that's coming to an end. People like Senator Charles- I refuse to call this guy "Chuck"- Schumer are becoming exposed as agents of a foreign power, and it's long overdue.

So congratulations to the Olympia board members who stood fast and broke this particular cycle of intimidation. And many thanks to their legal team, too- in particular the Center for Constitutional Rights, carrying on in the example set by the late Michael Ratner.


This is very good news. The vile, illegal oppression of the Palestinians is unbearable and the more we can all speak out about it the better as the main media is in cahoots with the revolting Zionist Israelis cruel bullying and undermining of the Palestinians.


Why is the U.S. supporting a "two-state solution"? It seems to me that as long as Israel and Palestine are separate countries, they will continue fighting. If they would combine, they would have to solve their problems, and would be an example to the world! What am I missing?


What do you mean, "If they would combine..."? Israel absorbed and colonised Palestine in a series of invasions, mass expulsions and land grabs. You seem to think there are two currently established entities located in adjacent but separate spaces, with equal powers to reach an accommodation that would entail voluntary unification and shared rights. Which means you haven't been paying attention to the news or to history. The Palestinians are being crushed by Zionism, a foreign-based movement which has taken all of historical Palestine and has openly declared it has no intention of sharing sovereignty with the indigenous people. As far as the Jewish State is concerned, there's absolutely nothing to discuss. There's no fighting going on, only periodic massacres carried out by the IDF on civilian populations, with the world's most notorious apartheid regime (complete with direct military rule) imposed on the Palestinian people. Your proposal isn't even a pipe dream. It's a travesty of the real conditions facing an oppressed people every day of their lives.

As for why the U.S. continues to offer (pretended) support for the two state solution, it's in service to Israel, which is thus able to prolong the "peace process" indefinitely while continuing to expand and intensify the very obstacles to a two state settlement, namely its colonies and brutal military rule over the remaining Palestinian lands.


In a nutshell Tom, you explained the conflict in plain English and really it is that simple.


The Zionists have never intended to have a two state solution and most of the rest of the world are too afraid to stand up to them because many many years ago they were allowed to build nuclear bombs which they will use one day because they are deeply selfish self obsessed people with very little awareness of themselves and their actions which impinge on the rest of the world and to the detriment of Jews everywhere. BDS BDS


That didn't answer my question. Why is no one talking about a one-state solution? If they are two states, they will continue fighting forever, as they are now. If they were one state, they would be forced to figure out how to get along, and, indeed, would be an example to the rest of the world.


Hey Mike your question is a valid one. Basically Israel is a racist colonial state that views the Palestinians in much the same way as white confederates viewed blacks, less than human. They are also a theocratic Jewish state whose laws cater to the ethnic Jews. You cant share a state with a people whose basic human rights are not codified into law and who you illegally occupy. It is just another vile form of slavery . What all this means is that Israeli racism is so extreme that sharing ancient Palestine/Israel in one state is virtually impossible.


Yes, a heatfelt thank you to everyone who helpt suport the freedom of free speach for the BDS movement in the USA.

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).