Olympia Food Co-Op: Lawsuit Attacks Boycott of Israeli Goods
In September 2011, the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs sued Olympia Food Co-op board members after the board voted to boycott Israeli goods. The plaintiffs, Israel supporters who were Co-op members, claimed that the board breached its fiduciary duty by not following correct procedures for such votes. In 2011, a Washington state court granted defendant board members’ anti-SLAPP motion – which argued that the purpose of the lawsuit was to silence the Co-op’s political viewpoint supporting Palestinian rights. The court agreed, finding that the lawsuit was a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP).
StandWithUs appealed the decision. In early 2014, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s dismissal, finding that the lawsuit was a meritless suppression of speech protected by the First Amendment and ordered StandWithUs to pay $160,000, plus attorneys’ fees.
StandWithUs appealed again, and oral arguments were held at the Washington Supreme Court on January 20, 2015. A decision is expected in the next few months.
Palestine Legal filed an Amicus brief with a number of organizations highlighting the role of the far-right group StandWithUs, who receives funds from the Israeli government, and the role of the Israeli government itself, in stifling speech. The amicus situates the Olympia lawsuit as part of those larger efforts.