Posted: 18 February 2012
Supporting BDS: VFP 92 Signs OFC Solidarity Statement
In July 2005, Palestinians issued a call for "international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era." The campaign has come to be known as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Veterans For Peace answered the Palestinian call in August 2005 at its national convention by adopting a "Resolution on Economic Support for Justice and Peace in Palestine" endorsing the BDS call. The Olympia Food Cooperative (OFC) answered the call in 2010, becoming the first grocery store in the US to boycott Israeli goods on July 15. This resulted in months of wrangling and caterwauling by supporters of Israel. Veterans For Peace, Greater Seattle, Chapter 92 responded by, among other things, sending a letter of support.
Then, in November 2010 out of a slate of fourteen candidates for five positions on the OFC Board of Directors all of the anti-boycott candidates were soundly defeated while five pro-boycott candidates were elected. And anti-boycott organizers failed to submit a petition to put the boycott to a membership vote. No one could be faulted for thinking the matter was therefore settled. It wasn't.
In July 2011--almost six years to the day after the issuance of the BDS call--the Israeli Knesset passed a law banning "any public call for a boycott against the state of Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense." As it turns out local supporters of Israel and the Israeli government had their own plans to try to punish people in this country for supporting the BDS campaign. On September 2, 2011, five OFC members, including four Board candidates defeated in the 2010 election, filed a lawsuit in Washington state court against sixteen current and former OFC Board members.
The OFC Board members are being defended by the Center for Constitutional Rights and CCR cooperating attorneys. Today, the Veterans For Peace, Greater Seattle, Chapter 92 voted to sign the statement of solidarity initiated by OlympiaBDS, which appears below. Other organizations and VFP chapters are encouraged to sign on. For updates to the case, check the CCR case page or the OlympiaBDS site.
We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the Olympia Food Co-op, and condemn the lawsuit filed against the Co-op in an attempt to undermine the Co-op's commitment to social justice by way of legal and financial intimidation. We call on the plaintiffs to exercise the Co-op's democratic option – bringing the boycott of Israeli goods to a member vote – instead of launching an aggressive lawsuit which seriously threatens the well-being of a cornerstone of the Olympia community. Lawsuits intended to silence and intimidate those who speak out against injustice should have no place in a democratic society.
For over three decades, the Co-op has enriched the Olympia community by striving to provide healthy, local, and sustainable food, and has rightly understood food sovereignty as one piece of the larger project of building a better world. From its emphasis on cooperative self-management, to its unswerving support for the local sustainable agriculture movement, to its persistent refusal to carry goods produced in ways that conflict with its core values, social justice has always been integral to the Co-op’s mission. The lawsuit against the Co-op is an attack on this commitment to social justice, and, by extension, on all of us who raise our voices against injustice and in the hope of creating a better world. For, as the author James Baldwin once wrote to wrongfully imprisoned Angela Davis, "if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night."
We therefore stand in solidarity with Olympia Food Co-op, and say to those who have brought this lawsuit: we will not be intimidated or silenced!