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June 1, 2015 4:26 pm

Tel Aviv Legal Group Threatens Park Slope Food Co-op With Lawsuit Over BDS Measures

avatar by Eliezer Sherman

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Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. Photo: Mike Cohen.

A prominent Israeli activist litigation group has threatened the Park Slope Food Co-op with a lawsuit if the supermarket adopts a boycott of Israeli products, the Algemeiner has learned.

“The Park Slope Food Co-op has to understand that we will not hesitate to file a lawsuit against them the minute they implement any anti-Israel boycott,” said Tel Aviv-based Shurat HaDin Director Nitsana Darshan-Leithner in a statement.

“Boycotts are not protected speech and they are actionable in [New York] under both criminal and civil law as illegal discrimination” on the basis of race or national origin, she said.

The Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center said it sent the Park Slope Food Co-op President William Penner and General Manager Joseph Holtz a letter warning them “not to implement a boycott of Israeli manufacturers, products or services.”

Shurat HaDin’s admonishment to legal action came about a month after the issue of boycotting Israeli products was raised at the food co-op’s monthly meeting, along with a slideshow presentation that quickly grew rowdy as members rushed the stage to unplug a projector showing slides of alleged Israeli military abuse against Palestinians.

Holtz had told Haaretz at the time he had never seen such great disagreement over boycott measures, such as the decision to withdraw Coloradan products after the state passed anti-gay measures or South African products during the apartheid era.

He said it was the first time in 42 years co-op members had ever rushed the stage during a meeting.

“The BDS movement, which spreads racist lies and promotes violence is inherently biased and prejudicial and has an extremist agenda that unfairly singles out Israel and Jews,” accused Shurat HaDin, in the statement released on Monday.

BDS activists at the Park Slope food co-op indicated on their website that their principle target is SodaStream, an Israeli carbonated beverage company that recently closed its factory in the West Bank and moved it to Israel’s Negev region.

Shurat HaDin says its goal is to “bankrupt terrorism, one lawsuit at a time,” and its activist litigators have filed lawsuits most notably against organizers of the Gaza flotilla, which attempted to break through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as former president Jimmy Carter, over a book he wrote about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a related case, last week the Washington Supreme Court reinstated a case in which members of the Olympia Food Co-op sued its board for voting to adopt a boycott of Israeli products in 2011.

The Olympia food co-op is the only such supermarket to pass BDS measures.

In 2014, the New York State Senate passed a bill that prohibited state funding of academic institutions that adopt “an official action boycotting certain countries or their higher education institutions,” apparently in response to the American Studies Association’s vote to adopt anti-Israel BDS measures.

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