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Food co-op seeks dismissal of anti-boycott lawsuit

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NEW YORK (JTA) — A Washington State food co-op that is boycotting Israeli products has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by pro-Israel activist members.

The motion, filed Wednesday in state Superior Court in Thurston County, asserts that the lawsuit filed in September by five members of the Olympia Food Co-Op runs afoul of a 2010 Washington anti-SLAPP law meant to prevent lawsuits that seek to punish public speech. It requires the plaintiffs to prove that the suit does not attempt to silence free speech, otherwise the plantiffs must pay the defendants’ legal fees and $10,000 to each of the 16 current or former co-op members named in the suit.

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

“We hope the court will strike down this effort to silence the co-op’s principled stand on Israel’s human rights violations,” said Maria LaHood, senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the motion.

“Allegations that the co-op board acted beyond its power are a thinly veiled attempt to stop concerned citizens from using a nonviolent and historical tool for social change.”

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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