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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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At the meeting,  according to StandWithUs minutes, a “legal presentation” was given. Further meeting minutes signal that the legal presentation concerned strategy for fighting BDS by suing the Olympia Food Co-op. The lawsuit is described as a “project” of StandWithUs.

Co op SWU1

Co op SWU2

Rob Jacobs (Northwest regional director of StandWithUs, Seattle)

Jacobs’ complicity in the Olympia Food Co-op lawsuit is well-covered in Ali Abunimah’s  exposé on the matter. Abunimah interviewed Jacobs, who gave answers inconsistent with the details we now know from the StandWithUs weekly reports.

On July 30, 2010, in an unsoliticted email to an Olympia activist who accused StandWithUs in Seattle of intervening against the Olympia Food Co-op, Jacobs wrote:

By the way, we’ve had no active part in the growing movement within Olympia against the Olympia Food Coop Boycott. That is being planned and organized by local community leaders.

But a year later, soon after being outed by Ali Abunimah as a major player in the campaign against the co-op, Jacobs attempted to make his involvement self-evident. In a September 2011 mailing to StandWithus supporters, Jacobs wrote:

For more than a year, ever since the Olympia Food Co-op last year passed a boycott of all Israeli products with no notice to its members and no public discussion, StandWithUs Northwest has been working closely with a dedicated group of anti-boycott activists [in Olympia].

Akiva Tor (Israeli consul general, San Francisco)

I have partly covered Tor’s involvement  in an earlier post on my blog. On March 10, 2011—following Tor's meeting with StandWithUs, the plaintiffs, and their lawyers—a number of Olympia activists (including myself) confronted Tor at a local restaurant. At the time, none of us were aware of Tor’s meeting about the lawsuit earlier that day, although we suspected that his visit was related to squashing BDS in Olympia. Our meeting with Tor was recorded. I have transcribed a portion below, where local activist Anna-Marie Murano asked Tor why he was in town:

Tor: There’s a very strong BDS movement in Olympia. I do not understand how that is going to get us to a peace—
Murano: Is that—
Tor: One second, one second—
Murano: Are you here because of the BDS movement...
Tor: No! I’m here because the state capit— I’m here—
Murano: ...and are you visiting city officials? And are you visiting college campus presidents?
Tor: I’m here because the state capital—
Tor’s assistant: I’m sorry to interrupt. We have a flight in about an hour and a half.
Murano: I really want to know, are you here in Olympia—
Tor: I’m here in Olympia—I’m here in Olympia because it is the state capital of Washington—
(unknown): Could you speak up a little bit, sir?
Tor: I’m here in Olympia because it’s the state capital of Washington, and I had a full day in your state capital, meeting officials about issues that are important for Israel–State of Washington relations, such as alternative energy and trade.

Somehow Tor had forgotten that he had a meeting about the Olympia Food Co-op lawsuit earlier that day, six months before the lawsuit was actually filed.

Danny Ayalon (Israeli deputy foreign minister)

News of the Israeli government's possible involvement in the Olympia Food Co-op lawsuit was covered in the Israeli press. As  Richard Silverstein noted on his Tikkun Olam blog, two weeks after the lawsuit was filed, the Israeli Channel 10 news program Tzinor Layla reported on the connections and asked Danny Ayalon if the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs was involved in the lawsuit. Ayalon, who is Akiva Tor’s superior, gave a response that was essentially affirmative:

It is very important to make use of every means at our disposal, mainly legal means. It is against American law to engage in boycotts certainly on any political basis, including this one. We are moving to a policy that is much more proactive, a policy that doesn’t just react.

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