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Anti-boycott lawsuit against food co-op is dismissed

JTA

February 28, 2012 | 11:24 am

A lawsuit seeking to overturn a Washington state food co-op’s boycott of Israeli goods was dismissed in state Superior Court.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee on Monday rejected the lawsuit that was filed last September by five members of the Olympia Food Co-Op.

McPhee said the lawsuit runs afoul of a 2010 Washington anti-SLAPP, or strategic lawsuit against public participation, law meant to prevent lawsuits that seek to punish public speech. The law requires plaintiffs to prove that the suit does not attempt to silence free speech, otherwise the plaintiffs must pay the defendants’ legal fees and could be required to pay $10,000 to each of the 16 current or former co-op members named in the suit.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Bob Sulkin, told The Olympian newspaper that he would appeal the ruling.

The co-op’s board voted 9 to 1 last July to not sell products made in Israel. It continues to sell Peace Oil, an Israeli-Palestinian fair trade olive oil.

“This ruling has huge implications for justice,” said Rochelle Gause, a board member and defendant in the lawsuit. “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.”

Maria LaHood, a senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the ruling sends a message to those trying to silence support of Palestinian human rights to think twice before they bring a lawsuit.”

Olympia is the hometown of Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist who was run over and killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 as she attempted to prevent a Palestinian home from being demolished.

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