WA Court Dismisses Seven-Year Lawsuit Over Boycott of Israeli Goods

Center for Constitutional Rights, March 9, 2018

Olympia, WA – Today, a Washington State court ended a seven-year litigation battle against former volunteer board members of the Olympia Food Co-op over their decision to boycott Israeli goods. The lawsuit was first filed in 2011 by five co-op members seeking to block the co-op’s boycott and to collect monetary damages against the board members. Two of the five members pulled out of the case, and none of the defendants originally named in the case remains a board member of the co-op. The court granted the motion for summary judgment from the former board members, who were represented by Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel, finding the plaintiffs had no standing to bring a case because they failed to show the co-op was injured.

“We are pleased that the court has dismissed this meritless lawsuit. It is a relief and a vindication for our clients, and a victory for everyone who supports the right to boycott,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood, who argued today.

Earlier this week, CCR filed with the court a recently produced document (Exhibit B) in which plaintiffs celebrated the lawsuit’s success in discouraging other co-ops from boycotting Israeli goods.

“We’re delighted that the judge has decided to dismiss this retaliatory lawsuit and protect our clients’ First Amendment freedoms,” said Bruce E.H. Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

In 2017, the co-op board of directors passed a resolution affirming that the litigation—which was purportedly brought on behalf of the co-op—was not approved by the co-op, is not in the co-op’s interest, and should be dismissed.

Lawyers say the lawsuit is part of a broad and growing pattern of suppressing activism in support of Palestinian rights, a phenomenon that CCR and Palestine Legal have documented and called the “Palestine Exception” to free speech. CCR and Palestine Legal report the widespread use of administrative disciplinary actions, harassment, firings, legislative attacks, false accusations of terrorism and antisemitism, and baseless legal complaints. Between 2014 and 2016, Palestine Legal responded to 650 such incidents of suppression targeting speech supportive of Palestinian rights.

“We are thrilled to be found in favor of for a second time on this frivolous lawsuit. We are proud of our attorney team, and proud of our community for supporting us, and we are grateful for the outpouring of solidarity we’ve received from around the world,” said defendant Grace Cox. “Taking a stand for economic and social justice is at the heart of the co-op’s mission. Given Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights, we would have failed in this mission had we not approved a boycott.”

The case was initially dismissed, in 2011, under a Washington State statute that protected against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). The Washington Supreme Court later struck down the SLAPP law in 2015, sending the case back to the lower courts. After engaging in discovery, plaintiffs essentially abandoned the litigation until reviving it recently.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is counsel in Davis, et al., v. Cox, et al. with CCR cooperating counsel Barbara Harvey from Detroit, Michigan, along with Seattle attorneys Bruce E.H. Johnson and Brooke E. Howlett of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

For more information, visit CCR’s case page. For more information about Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, visit http://www.dwt.com.

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March 5, 2018
Stop AIPAC: National Call-In Day

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

CALL CONGRESS ON MONDAY, MARCH 5 – (202) 224-3121 – to say that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is unjust and unconstitutional!

AIPAC is descending on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, March 6 to push their anti-Palestinian rights agenda – part of which is criminalizing our right to boycott.

We need to preempt their lobbying and tell our Members of Congress that we OPPOSE the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a piece of legislation that would criminalize individuals exercising their First Amendment right to boycott Israel.

Learn more about it!

Call (202) 224-3121 to let Congress know:

    “I oppose the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (HR 1697/S 720) because we have the right to boycott until freedom is achieved for Palestinians in occupied territory, justice is guaranteed for Palestinian refugees who have a right to return, and equality is earned for Palestinian citizens of Israel. The Supreme Court, and most recently, a Federal District Court, have upheld our right to boycott. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is both unjust and unconstitutional.”

Read our previous action alerts on this bill:
• “AIPAC is flailing” (October 17, 2017)
• “Punish Israel Boycotters? You, ACLU, and US Campaign Say No!” (June 20, 2017)
• “Are Your Members of Congress Trying to Criminalize BDS?” (May 18, 2017)
• “AIPAC Is Lobbying for this Today…” (March 28, 2017)

Wisconsin should reject boycott bill;
it is not anti-Semitic

MJS-Leah-VukmirState Sen. Leah Vukmir (Megan Papachristou Photography)

Sandy Pasch, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 6, 2018

Legislation working its way through the state Legislature would prohibit Wisconsin businesses who sign on to the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement from receiving some state contracts.

And, unfortunately, Assembly Bill 553 and Senate Bill 450 are attracting bipartisan support because of a false conflation of BDS with anti-Semitism and discrimination.

But these bills are a mistake for Wisconsin at every level.

The bills would institute a level of bureaucracy in monitoring business negotiations in the state, constituting a dangerous erosion of democratic social control. If a company responded to a citizens’ BDS campaign to divest its interests, for example, that company would no longer be eligible for certain state contracts. And the several church synods that have elected to divest their pension funds would become ineligible to contract with the state to provide social services. These bills make the moral decisions of citizens and parishioners a barrier to free enterprise.

Historically, boycotts have been an important, nonviolent tool of dissent. A global boycott of South Africa, often compared in moral scope to the BDS movement, was decisive in ending the apartheid regime. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled decisively in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware in 1982 that boycotts constitute protected speech, assembly, petition and association. Just last month, in the first federal test of anti-boycott laws at the state level, a federal judge ruled that Kansas’ anti-boycott law was an unconstitutional denial of free speech.

Why is the State of Wisconsin trying to pass a bill that has already been judged unconstitutional and whose true purpose is to shield Israel from criticism about legitimate human rights issues?

Introduced by state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) and state Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), the bills are a product of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. Their bills are strikingly similar to many anti-BDS bills introduced or passed in more than half the states in the U.S. at the behest of ALEC. It makes sense, then, that politicians such as Vukmir and Kooyenga, deeply allied with ALEC and the billionaire Koch brothers, support this undemocratic legislation.

It is confusing that some progressive Democrats also support this bill. They do this because of a mistaken equivalence between BDS and anti-Semitism, equating nonviolent boycotts with disloyalty.

Support for BDS is not anti-Semitic. The Milwaukee and Madison chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace represent the growing population of American Jews who respond to the call from Palestinian civil society for a nonviolent boycott in support of the prospect of peace in the region.

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Kansas Doesn’t Even Try to Defend Its Israel Anti-Boycott Law

Brian Hauss, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, November 30, 2017


Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall dividing the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis reads, Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock

Kansas officials are scheduled to appear in court tomorrow to defend a state law designed to suppress boycotts of Israel. There’s just one problem: The state quite literally has no defense for the law’s First Amendment violations.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in October against a law requiring anyone contracting with the state to sign a statement affirming that they don’t boycott Israel or its settlements. We represent Esther Koontz, a math teacher who was hired by the state to train other teachers. Together with members of her Mennonite church, Esther boycotts Israel to protest its treatment of Palestinians. After she explained that she could not in good conscience sign the statement, the state refused to let her participate in the training program.

The law violates the First Amendment, which protects the right to participate in political boycotts. That right was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1982, when it ruled that an NAACP boycott of white-owned businesses in Mississippi during the civil rights movement was a protected form of free expression and free association. But despite long-held consensus around the right to boycott, we were still pretty surprised when Kansas didn’t even try to argue the law is constitutional.

We asked for a preliminary injunction, which would immediately halt enforcement of the law and allow Esther to do the job she was hired for. In its response brief, Kansas doesn’t mention the First Amendment even once, even though the entire case turns on the myriad ways the law violates First Amendment rights. Instead, the government relies on a couple half-baked procedural arguments in an attempt to convince the court to leave the law in place for now.

First, Kansas argues that a preliminary injunction isn’t necessary because Esther could always receive monetary damages at the end of the lawsuit, should she win. But courts have long recognized that the government can’t use money damages to buy off the loss of First Amendment rights.

The government’s other argument is that the Kansas secretary of administration would have given Esther a waiver, had she sought one, exempting her from the requirement to refrain from boycotting Israel. But the government can’t neutralize legal challenges to blatantly unconstitutional laws by making one-off exceptions for the people who happen to file lawsuits. Even if Esther could have gotten a waiver, that wouldn’t help other Kansans affected by the law.

The Kansas law isn’t an aberration. Some two dozen states have laws or executive orders on the books designed to chill boycotts of Israel. (Two such executive orders, in Maryland and Wisconsin, were issued just this past October.) A similar law in Texas came under scrutiny when a municipality interpreted it to condition hurricane relief on a commitment not to boycott Israel. A separate federal bill threatens heavy sanctions against people who participate in certain international boycott campaigns against the country.

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February 20, 2018
Film: The Occupation of the American Mind

Madison Central Library
201 W. Mifflin Street, Madison
7:00 pm

Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison presents a showing of the film The Occupation of the American Mind. Co-sponsored by MRSCP.

Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestinian territory and its repeated invasions of the Gaza strip have triggered a fierce backlash against Israeli policies virtually everywhere in the world — except the United States.

The Occupation of the American Mind takes an eye-opening look at this critical exception, zeroing in on pro-Israel public relations efforts within the U.S. Narrated by Roger Waters and featuring leading observers of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the film explores how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the conflict in Israel’s favor.

The Occupation of the American Mind provides a sweeping analysis of Israel’s decades-long battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people — a battle that has only intensified over the past few years in the face of widening international condemnation of Israel’s increasingly right-wing policies.

For details and updates check Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison.

Backlash in New Orleans: vote to rescind BDS resolution set for Thursday

Dear Friend,

Last Thursday, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a historic human rights resolution!

The resolution, developed by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee (NOPSC), calls on the city to avoid contracting with or investing in corporations that consistently violate human, civil, or labor rights— including Israel.

Now Jewish establishment groups are crying foul, saying the resolution unfairly targets Israel, and pushing feverishly for the council to revoke its original vote.

And it looks like the entire council is caving.

Click here to tell the New Orleans City Council they had it right the first time. Say yes to human rights here, in Palestine, and everywhere, and yes to the Human Rights Investment Screening Resolution (R-18-5).

Before last week’s vote, Council President Jason Williams said the resolution “specifically recognizes the city’s social and ethical obligations to take steps to avoid contracting with or investing in certain corporations, namely those that consistently violate human rights, civil rights, or labor rights.”

Does he now believe Israeli corporations should be exempt? Does he really think the city has social and ethical obligations to all people except Palestinians?

No matter where you live, we can make a difference speaking out as Jews and as people who love justice. Saving this historic resolution has turned into a truly uphill battle. A re-vote is planned for Thursday, and we have to make sure the City Council hears us.

Support NOPSC by telling the New Orleans City Council: don’t align yourselves with human rights violators in our name. Align your values and your investments, and uphold R-18-5.

If this resolution can withstand the backlash, it will stand as a powerful precedent in the ongoing struggle for Palestinian and truly universal human rights.

Tell New Orleans City Council you support R-18-5 now.

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Open Letter to Women’s March L.A. from Women for Palestine

Open Letter to Women’s March L.A.:
Women for Palestine Calls for Genuine Intersectionality

Women 4 Palestine L.A., January 17, 2018

We embrace and applaud the intersectional analysis that marks today’s social movements, and decry the absence of this perspective in outreach for the Women’s March Los Angeles.

In a shocking move, you announced that a “Special Guest” speaker at WMLA 2018 is Scarlett Johansson, who is unabashedly a supporter of Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. She served as a spokesperson, and indeed, was the face of the advertising campaign of SodaStream, whose factory was in a settlement built illegally on land stolen from Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. As a result, she was forced to step down from her role as an ambassador for the humanitarian group Oxfam after working with the charity for eight years.

Johansson’s unapologetic support for Israel’s abuses of Palestinians confirms that she fully deserves the praise Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heaped on her in his speech to the Israel lobby group AIPAC in Washington, several years ago. Netanyahu said Johansson should be “applauded” for opposing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights. Regardless of her claims to not be “political,” Johansson is now seen by Palestinians and their supporters as a defender of apartheid Israel.

While there are a host of OTHER examples that can be cited, here we want to focus on the impact on those of us who actively support the indigenous rights of the Palestinian people, especially in light of the recent international attention on women and child political prisoners, including 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi, the young Palestinian Rosa Parks.

Once again, grassroot feminists who promote Palestinian human rights are concerned that a hostile environment is promoted by the organizers of WMLA — whether inadvertently, or not — by the choice of featured speakers, major donors, and major partners.

The organizers of the Women’s March LA are well aware of the issues the “Women 4 Palestine” contingent faced at last year’s “Women’s March LA.” We were verbally abused with racist remarks, and bullied, to the point that some of us are reticent to return out of concern for our personal safety. Our concerns were brushed off by your organizers, in fact one of you accused one of our members as being anti-semitic when she posted an announcement for our Women’s Rally to Free Ahed and All Palestinian Child Prisoners.

We also object to tone set as a result of the key role played by The National Council of Jewish Women LA, especially as a major organizer and donor to the local Women’s March. When Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, said that “we didn’t want it to become an Israel-bashing fest…We got assurances that the march is not anti-Trump and not anti-Israel,” it was clear that they were determined to silence the voices of critics of Israel and supporters of Palestinian rights.

“We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights.” – Mission Women’s March Mission. Apparently that does not include Palestinian Human Rights.

Renowned Black feminist poet, June Jordan’s poetry embodies the intersectionality of Black and Palestine liberation. “I was born a Black woman / and now / I am become a Palestinian / against the relentless laughter of evil / there is less and less living room / and where are my loved ones / It is time to make our way home.”

Last year’s Women’s March, DTLA looked like it was covered with a fresh coat of snow studded with pink caps. In no way did it reflect the wonderful diversity of Los Angeles County. Unfortunately, we never heard that was a concern for WMLA’s leaders, either before the march when several of us raised these issues, OR afterwards. What a shame and missed opportunity.

It’s well past time to be genuinely intersectional, inclusive, transparent, and welcoming of marginalized people, including the Palestinian community, an approach exemplified by the International Women’s Strike, which mobilized thousands of women in March of 2017 for gender, economic and social justice, while also centering the “Decolonization of Palestine,” anti-imperialism, and an end to gendered state violence. IWS organizers are once again mobilizing for March 2018 International Women’s Day marches and strikes.

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