NEW YORK, May 29, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC praised the Washington State Supreme Court's rejection of a lower court ruling on a local Food Cooperative's boycott of Israeli goods.
"The Washington Supreme Court's ruling is a clear message to ideologically driven advocates for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to stop using the courts to punish, not just silence, those who oppose their efforts to drag institutions—in this case, a food co-op—into boycotting Israel," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.
Five co-op members -- Kent and Linda Davis, Jeffrey and Susan Trinin, and Susan Mayers – had filed a lawsuit claiming that the Olympia, Washington, co-op had violated its own procedures when it decided in 2011 to remove and stop offering Israeli products. Co-op rules require, among other things, that a boycott be national in scope, and that a consensus among staff members exists that the co-op should participate. The plaintiffs had argued that neither condition was satisfied, and petitioned the state courts to order the co-op to stop the boycott.
The co-op, however, responded by filing a motion under Washington's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) Act, seeking dismissal of the lawsuit and payment of over $220,000 in attorney's fees and damages. The SLAPP Act provides for such penalties if the plaintiff cannot prove at the outset that it will prevail—before discovery and without submitting a case to a jury to sort out disputed facts. The lower court sided with the co-op, and the plaintiffs appealed to the state's high court.
The Supreme Court rejected the lower court decision, stating that the anti-SLAPP statute unconstitutionally violated the plaintiffs' right to a jury trial. The statute "seeks to protect one group of citizens' constitutional rights of expression and petition by cutting off another groups' right of petition and jury trial," stated the Supreme Court decision.
Harris added: "Boycotts unfairly single out democratic Israel and do not advance the prospects of peace. To the contrary, they only embolden Palestinians to believe mistakenly that they can avoid the negotiating table with Israel. We encourage the plaintiffs to continue to challenge the ill-considered and illicitly adopted boycott by the Olympia co-op."
SOURCE American Jewish Committee