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Is Israel's Government Involved in Harassment Lawsuit Against Washington Food Cooperative?

The first US grocery store to publicly honor the boycott of Israeli products is the subject of a lawsuit.

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Kent Davis (plaintiff)

In the lawsuit, Kent Davis claims to be a co-op member who was wronged by the passage of the boycott. However, the Olympia Food Co-op approved the boycott proposal on July 15, 2010, and Davis  did not become a co-op member until one month later.

Moreover, he was not a member of the Evergreen State College campus community when he addressed a May 11, 2011 meeting of the Evergreen board of trustees. At that meeting, Davis told the college board to ignore the  overwhelming student vote calling for a socially responsible investment policy and divestment from the Israeli occupation. He explained:

One of the three mandates of the BDS movement is the right of return, which would lead to the end of the Jewish state of Israel by causing an influx of heirs whose ancestors of their own volition left Israel. The number of heirs is exponentially greater many times over than the original ancestors who left Israel.

(Some of these “ancestors” are still alive and shop at the Olympia Food Co-op.)

Davis also accused Evergreen State College of being “hostile against Jewish students,” despite the fact that several Jewish students spoke before and after Davis at the meeting, all of whom supported the divestment measure, except for a single Jewish student who was on the StandWithUs payroll.

In the StandWithUs video above, Davis claims that the co-op’s boycott

gives license to people who are not completely balanced. It gives them license to express anti-Semitic thoughts, which then lead to anti-Semitic actions...I really don’t think it’s comfortable for Jews to live in the city of Olympia and be outwardly expressive Jews...I just don’t feel comfortable discussing my religion or my beliefs in a mixed-group environment anymore.

Yet we are to believe that Davis would be content if the boycott passed some other way. As much as Davis is concerned about anti-Semitism, there is no discussion of anti-Semitism in the lawsuit.

Robert Sulkin (plaintiffs’ attorney)

Robert Sulkin is one of two attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Sulkin  told an Olympian reporter that the goal of the lawsuit “is to bring people together at the end of the day.” However, Sulkin's connection to pro-Israel advocacy organizations would seem to indicate he has other motives.

Sulkin is a founding member of  McNaul Ebel Nawrot & Helgren, a Seattle law firm dealing in corporate litigation. Sulkin is also a  prominent figure in the Seattle mainstream Jewish community. He serves as board president of the Jewish Day School of Seattle, is on the board of directors at the Shalom Harman Institute in Jerusalem, and is a co-founder of Hope for Heroism, an organization based in Seattle that provides assistance for disabled Israeli soldiers, which Sulkin praises as “showing our commitment to Israel and her people.”

Robert Sulkin’s wife Alayne recently served as a  “row host” for a  StandWithUs annual community reception. On the web page where she is listed as a row host, we can view the HTML source and find, commented out, that at one point, Robert Sulkin was also partnered up with his wife to be a row host for StandWithUs:

Co op source code

The plaintiffs to the lawsuit, while denying that they are being managed by the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs, are being represented by an attorney affiliated with StandWithUs.

Avi Lipman (plaintiffs’ attorney)

Avi Lipman is a junior member of McNaul Ebel Nawrot & Helgren who works under Robert Sulkin. On March 10, 2011, six months before he filed the lawsuit on behalf of his clients, Lipman traveled to Olympia, where he met with StandWithUs regional director  Rob Jacobs (also from Seattle), StandWithUs co-chair Carolyn Hathaway (from Bellevue, Washington), and Israeli consul general Akiva Tor (from San Francisco). The meeting was also attended by the future plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

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