Wednesday, February 29, 2012

IAW@Evergreen: Students Call for TIAA-CREF to Divest from Occupation!

On Wednesday, February 29th, students at The Evergreen State College stood in unity with Israeli Apartheid Week 2012.

Students stood on Red Square during the lunch hour, holding books about the the Occupied Territories and Palestinian history, blindfolded by the images of the US and Israeli flags. The vigil was called to symbolize the obstacles to education faced by Palestinian students because of the US-funded Israeli military occupation of Palestine.

Greeners also worked to bring attention to the complicity of investment firm TIAA-CREF in human rights abuses committed against Palestinians. Using the vigil as a launching pad, students affiliated with TESC Divest! collected signatures on a petition calling on TIAA-CREF to divest from companies that profit from the occupation. 

The students were "branded" with the logos of war-profiteers that TIAA-CREF invests in, such as Elbit Systems which maintains surveillance systems along the Apartheid wall, Motorola which maintains checkpoints, and Northrop Grumman whose missles were used to attack civilians during Operation Cast Lead, Israelis 2008-09 military offensive in Gaza which left 1,400 non-combatants dead, and Caterpillar, whose D9 weaponized bulldozers are used to demolish Palestinian homes and were used in the 2003 murder of Evergreen senior Rachel Corrie.

TIAA-CREF, which handles the retirement funds for thousands of teachers and college professors across the country, also handles the pension funds for Evergreen faculty. Evergreen professor Larry Mosqueda, a former teacher of Rachel Corrie's, has noted in a TESC Divest video that "Just as South Africa was an apartheid state, Israel is an apartheid state and the people of Palestine shouldn't be exploited anymore." Faculty like Mosqueda, however, are not permitted to invest their pensions in Occupation-free accounts through TIAA-CREF--even through so-called "Socially Responsible" accounts.

The protestors also advertised a screening of "Slingshot Hip Hop", to be screened on campus tomorrow, Thursday, March 1st as part of Israeli Apartheid Week at Evergreen. The documentary is advertised as "the acclaimed film about several Palestinian rap groups in Israel and the Occupied Territories, which follows the struggles these young people face in connecting with each other across Israel's apartheid wall in the West Bank and siege of the Gaza Strip."

More pictures at the TESC Divest! flickr

Monday, February 27, 2012

Olympia Food Co-op wins it's battle for the Right to Boycott!

OFC Supporters standing outside the courtroom.  (Via TESC Divest flickr)

Today at the Thurston County Superior Court, the Olympia Food Co-op won the legal battle to continue it's boycott of Israeli goods as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement! 16 board members of the co-op had been sued by five current and former members of the co-op who attempted to use litigation to force the board to rescind the boycott.

According to a Press Release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which helped in the OFC's defense:

"In a court hearing last Thursday, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP argued that the court should grant the defendants’ Special Motion to Strike and dismiss the case because it targeted the constitutional rights of free speech and petition in connection with an issue of public concern.
“We are pleased the Court found this case to be what it is – an attempt to chill free speech on a matter of public concern.  This sends a message to those trying to silence support of Palestinian human rights to think twice before they bring a lawsuit,” said Maria LaHood, a senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights."

Co-op Suppoters rallying in support of OFC

Members of Olympia BDS also released a press release in response to the dismissal of the SLAPP suit:

"Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including several failed candidates for the board of directors, wrote that the coming suit was intended to hamper the Co-op’s ability to participate in the boycott of Israeli goods. The letter, dated May 31, 2011, states in part that “we will bring legal action against you,” and that the execution of the boycott would become “complicated, burdensome, and expensive.” In response, the board of directors reiterated that the proper process for overturning a boycott is a “member-initiated ballot”, and that the opponents of the boycott could put it to a vote of the membership, and Judge McPhee noted that the plaintiffs offered no evidence that they exhausted all manner of challenging boycott.

The opponents of this boycott have had every opportunity to rescind the boycott using the fair and democratic process laid out in the Co-op bylaws,” says Johan Genberg, a longtime co-op member, adding “[The plaintiffs] wanted to punish the store for speaking out for social justice, but isn’t that exactly what makes the Olympia Food Co-op unique? The store reflects the values of this community.”
Farihan Bushnaq, a Co-op member since 1983 adds “as a Palestinian refugee and a member of the Olympia Co-op I wholeheartedly support the boycott, as a way to save Israel from its own excesses, and to end the continued dehumanization of the Palestinian people under Israeli control.”"

Activists with the Palestine Freedom Project and TESC Divest! who livetweeted during the hearing were present when Judge Thomas McPhee affirmed that in his view the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement indeed constituted a "national movement," regardless of the fact that OFC was the first grocery store in the country to adopt the boycott of Israeli goods. (Electronic Intifada).

According to The Olympian, the attorney to the Plaintiff's, who may have to pay up to $10,000 SLAPP suit penalty for each of the 16 board members targeted in the suit, is looking into an appeal.

Update 7:23pm:

Associated Press report via Seattle P-I (Via the Olympia Food Co-op website)

"[Judge Thomas] McPhee ruled that plaintiffs failed to show that the board acted outside of its authority when it enacted the boycott. He also ruled that the 2010 law was constitutional. He also addressed the plaintiffs' contention in its lawsuit that the boycott was not "nationally recognized," as is required under the co-op's boycott policy.
He said that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement or BDS, which supported the boycott, "is a national movement," The Olympian reported. The group supports boycotts to compel Israel to respect Palestinian rights."

Blogger Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam : Olympia Food Coop Wins Anti-SLAPP Motion, Court Dismisses StandWithUs Lawsuit
"In this case, the issue was whether the food coop had the right to ban nine Israeli products from its shelves in support of the globalBDS movement.  This action was taken according to coop rules which permitted the board by concensus to approve this measure. The defendants could’ve requested a vote of the. Entire membership to confirm or reject the board’s decision but refused Togo this route.  The plaintiffs ran for the coop board in the next election on a platform that opposed the board’s BDS decision and lost.
Though five coop members sued the coop itself in this case, the plaintiffs were recruited by the right-wing pro-Israel advocacy group, StandWithUs and Israel’s Northwest Consul General, Akiva Tor.  SWU and the MFA also recruited the lawyers representing the anti-BDS group.  Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, told an Israeli TV news show that the government was using such suits in order to pre-empt what he called efforts to delegitimize Israel internationally.  Thus, today’s court victory is a small, but important victory in the battle to bring Israel’s human rights abuses and illegal Occupation to a broader public audience.  It is a defeat for the Israeli government and its NGO allies who seek to sweep such issues under the rug and use lawfare tactics to battle human rights activists."

Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation posted the news.

Tuesday, February, 28th, 3:12pm
Jewish Voice for Peace hails the news :
"Jewish group hails Olympia Food Coop BDS legal victory
JVP Members play role in successful defense of lawsuit

The Coop victory will resonate far beyond Washington State because it represents a successful blow against a broader pattern of intimidation by advocates for illegal Israeli settlement expansion who use legal mechanisms and boy-who-cried-wolf definitions of anti-Semitism to try to silence free and open debate and obstruct personal choice. A few examples include a lawsuit against former President Jimmy Carter for using the word “Apartheid” in his book title about Israel ( ; lawsuits at UC Berkeley accusing the school of being anti-semitic ( ), and the use of new civil rights legislation changes to make multiple complaints of anti-Semitism ).
Jewish Voice for Peace and National Lawyer's Guild member attorney Barbara Harvey brought in the Center for Constitutional Rights, which won the case, and assisted in the defense. Further, hundreds of Jewish Voice for Peace supporters from Washington State signed an open letter in defense of the boycott. ""

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"More than many peoples of the world we know of the type of support that is possible that can be built from the grassroots, from every city from every street, from classrooms, in support of the people who are faced with an injustice."

Found this via Joseph Dana on Facebook.
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi is a PhD candidate and the Chairperson of the Post Graduate Association at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa. Ndlozi is a member of the South African Students Congress (SASCO) and a board member of BDS South Africa. Mbuyiseni is active in campaigning on both domestic and international issues, including worker rights, student issues and Palestine solidarity. He recently attended the South African session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a people's tribunal that found Israel guilty of the crime of apartheid under international law.

Constitutional Rights Lawyers Call for Dismissal of SLAPP Suit against OFC

Press Release from the Center for Constitutional Rights. Via OlympiaBDS :

(Press Release from Center for Constitutional Rights,
 Suing Co-op for Participating in Human Rights Boycott Violates Anti-SLAPP Statute, Lawyers Say
February 23, 2012, Olympia, WA and New York, NY – Today, in a lawsuit brought against current and former members of the Olympia Food Co-op board of directors for their decision to boycott Israeli goods, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Davis Wright Tremaine LLP argued in a court hearing that the case should be dismissed because it is an effort to chill the board’s public statements on an issue of public interest. The lawsuit was filed by five co-op members, purporting to bring the suit on behalf of the co-op itself, which has approximately 22,000 members. The boycott is part of a global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel for what boycotters say are violations of international law and the denial of Palestinian human rights.

This boycott is part of a rich tradition of free speech and nonviolent protest, including the Civil Rights Movement and the movement against South African apartheid,” said Maria LaHood, a senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “The court should strike down this effort to silence the co-op board’s principled stand on Israel’s human rights violations – a stand it had every right to take, regardless of whether one agrees with it.

Before the co-op case was filed, the plaintiffs’ lawyer sent the co-op board members a letter indicating that plaintiffs would bring a “complicated, burdensome, and expensive” legal action if the co-op did not end the boycott. At today’s hearing, defendant’s lawyers argued that the resulting lawsuit is a SLAPP—Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation. SLAPPs are lawsuits that target the constitutional rights of free speech and petition in connection with an issue of public concern. Although many cases that qualify as SLAPPs are without legal merit, they can nonetheless effectively achieve their primary purpose: to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending against a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources, and can divert attention away from the public issue and intimidate and silence other speakers. Washington State’s Anti-SLAPP statute was enacted in 2010 to deter such lawsuits.
“The board’s boycott decision is a classic exercise of freedom of speech, and, because it involves a matter of intense public concern, it is clearly protected by the new law,” said Bruce E.H. Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, who drafted Washington State’s Anti-SLAPP law.

The board members’ attorneys also asked the court to deny the plaintiffs’ request for discovery, arguing that lengthy depositions and voluminous document production is precisely the type of burden the anti-SLAPP statute was intended to prevent. They defended the constitutionality of Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute, which the plaintiffs challenged in their opposition to defendants’ motion to strike the lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks to prevent enforcement of the boycott policy and to collect monetary damages against the 16 past and current board members.

“We hope the court recognizes this lawsuit for what it is: an attempt by a few members to impose their will on the organization through the courts rather than following the democratic processes of the co-op,” said Jayne Kaszynski, spokesperson for the Olympia Food Co-op and one of the defendants in the case. “We look forward to re-focusing our energy on our mission and the needs of the community as a whole.”

The Olympia Food Co-op is a nonprofit corporation that was formed in Olympia, Washington in 1976. The co-op seeks to make good food accessible to more people while encouraging economic and social justice, and it has a long history of social justice work. In 2010, the board passed a resolution by consensus to boycott Israeli goods.

The case is Davis, et al., v. Cox, et al., Case No. 11-2-01925-7 in theSuperior Court of the State of Washington in Thurston County. For more information and today’s argument, and to view filings in the case, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is counsel on the case with CCR cooperating counsel Barbara Harvey from Detroit, Michigan, and Steven Goldberg from Portland, Oregon, along with Seattle attorneys Bruce E.H. Johnson and Devin Smith of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. For more information about Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, visit

The Olympia Food Co-op is a member-based, not-for-profit, natural foods grocery store with two locations in Olympia, WA. The Olympia Food Co-op has provided healthy, organic and local food to the Olympia area since 1977, with an emphasis on promoting social and environmental responsibility. The stores are collectively managed and largely volunteer-run.


The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Israeli Apartheid Week 2012 at TESC!

Israeli Apartheid Week will be happening in Olympia for the first time in 2012!

This tradition was started in 2005 at the University of Toronto, Canada, and is now marked in cities across the globe.

The Week aims to draw attention to Israel's discriminatory policies aga
inst the Palestinian people in all forms: the racist military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the unequal civil rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the refusal on the part of the Israeli government to recognize the right of return of Palestinian refufees at the same time as it allows any Jewish person from anywhere in the world to become an Israeli citizen.

Film Screening: Slingshot Hip-Hop

Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 4:00 - 6:00 PM

 The Evergreen State College

Lecture Hall 5

As part of Israeli Apartheid Week 2012, TESC Divest!, The Mideast Solidary Project and Hip-Hop Congress Present Slingshot Hip-Hop, the acclaimed film about several Palestinian rap groups in Israel and the Occupied Territories, which follows the struggles these young people face in connecting with each other across Israel's apartheid wall in the West Bank and siege of the Gaza Strip. The film won the Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, among various other awards, and has made the facts of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict known to a wide new audience.

The film will be shown at The Evergreen State College, in Lecture Hall 5, at 4:00 pm on Thursday, March 1st, and will be followed by a short audience discussion.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

TESC WRC for a CAT Boycott!

Evergreen State College's Women's Resource Center supports the 2010 student body vote to Boycott CATerpillar!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

OccupyOakland GA Endorses BDS, Remembers Evergreen Student Rachel Corrie

This is big news.

Via Mondoweiss:

Last Wednesday at the amphitheatre in front of Oakland’s city hall, occupiers endorsed Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel in a 135-to-one vote. Oakland’s occupiers have recently experienced chemical dispersants, and a mass arrest, which took place over the weekend. Among those arrested was Noura Khouri, the Palestinian organizer who initiated the BDS proposal. . .

Khouri, along with co-presenters Basima Sisemore and Deppen Webber, also touched on the use of chemical dispersants by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and the Israeli military. "The same tear gas that is being used on the streets here against you all is being used in Palestine," said Sisemore. And, in fact, a portion of the occupiers at GA had experienced tear gas during the weekend’s "move-in day" actions, a failed attempt to occupy a vacant building. Throughout the march the OPD fired tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, flash-booms, and smoke grenades, on protesters, including children and elderly. One producer of these “non-lethal” weapons is Defense Technology, which is also used by the Israeli military. . .

Evergreen student Rachel Corrie, murdered in 2003 by the Israeli Defense Forces while protecting a house from demolition was counted as an inspiration for the resolution.
However, occupiers did not need much convincing on why BDS should be endorsed. During comments, an occupier named Alessandro said, "I am fully in support of this proposal," continuing, "U.S. imperialism is the biggest oppression in the entire world and Israel is their number one client." This was echoed by another who received an ovation for stating "I am indebted to Rachel Corrie for giving me the courage to stand in solidarity with oppressed people." 

Friday, February 3, 2012

TESC Commencement Speaker Angela Davis Endorses Divestment

This past spring at the 2011 Evergreen State College graduation ceremony, commencement speaker Dr. Angela Davis endorsed efforts by students and alumni at Evergreen to work in resistance to "a 21st century resistance to Israeli apartheid" by pushing for campus divestment. She also made a prominent commendation of Rachel Corrie's legacy on the Evergreen campus.

A full transcript of Dr. Davis' remarks can be found at Works in Progress.

Dr. Angela Davis:
When I accepted the invitation to speak at your commencement, I responded in the affirmative because I wanted to associate myself with a college that has a deeply progressive tradition. I wanted to associate myself with students, faculty and workers who defend the integrity of the environment, its resources, its plants, its human and its non-human animals, and who encourage others to engage in sustainable living practices.
I wanted to associate myself with an institution that continues to defend the spirit and legacy of one of the most prominent members of its community, Rachel Corrie. And I think that each graduating class should take a moment and reflect on her courage her generosity.
And I'm happy to hear that students and faculty on this campus, in the context of a 21st century resistance to Israeli apartheid, are following those who stood up against South African apartheid and are raising the demand for divestment.
This is a burgeoning movement, and you here at the Evergreen State College have the opportunity to provide progressive leadership to the rest of the country. As the anti-South African apartheid campaign was spurred on by those universities that divested early on, Michigan State University, in 1978 I believe, Columbia University, the University of Wisconsin. And of course, eventually virtually every school in the country followed their leadership.
Your education has provided you with tools to recognize that solidarity with progressive Palestinian people is also solidarity with progressive Jewish people in Israel.
And I should point out that I attended a university as an undergraduate which was founded in the same year as the state of Israel, Brandeis University, the majority of whose students were Jewish. And it was there as an undergraduate with my Jewish classmates that I learned how to express solidarity for Palestinian people. I will never forget that.
Remember also that, while everyone now praises Nelson Mandela and expresses joy that the people of South Africa were finally able to defeat apartheid, Mandela was not always recognized as this legendary defender of democracy. In fact, he was represented initially as a pariah, as a terrorist. Amnesty International did not initially support him because of his association with Umkhonto we Sizwe. So I want us to recall that history, to think about it in a complicated way, and to be aware of the important role South Africa is playing in calling for the support of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.
And I just want to share with you a very moving statement by Archbishop Tutu, who recently sent a message to the mayor of a town in Australia. The city council of that town decided to divest, and received a great deal of criticism as a result.
"Dear Mayor Fiona Byrne of Marrickville, New South Wales, Australia
"We in South Africa, who both suffered under apartheid and defeated it, have the moral right and responsibility to name and shame institutionalized separation, exclusion, and domination by one ethnic group over others. In my own eyes, I have seen how the Palestinians are oppressed, disposed, and exiled. We call on all our Jewish and Israeli sisters and brothers to oppose the Occupation and work for equality, justice, and peace between the river and the sea in the same way that so many South African whites took risk to oppose the crime of Apartheid."
And he concludes by saying, "Sometimes taking a public stand for what is ethical and right brings cost, but social justice on a local or global scale requires faith and courage."
If there is a skill we all need to acquire as we attempt to move forward in the 21st century, it is the ability to identity and act on an awareness of the links and connections across the range of issues we identify as crucial for democratic agendas today.
And so, those of us who call for freedom for Palestine acknowledge the connections between the attacks on the Palestinians in their own country and the racist discourse that relies on unquestioned acceptance of Islamophobia, which in turn is interpreted as necessary for the success of what has been represented as a global war on terror.

Evergreen Student Groups Support CAT Boycott

Several on-campus groups at The Evergreen State College have recently endorsed a democratically student-mandated boycott of all Caterpillar Inc. products on campus, in protest of that corporations complicity in the military occupation of Palestine and the March 2003 murder of Evergreen student Rachel Corrie, by hanging CAT-FREE ZONE posters in their meeting spaces and offices.

Mideast Solidarity Project

Hip Hop Congress

Latin American Solidarity Organization & Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador

Student Art Gallery

Fiber Arts Club

Student-Run Cafe The Flaming Eggplant

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Welcome to the blog of TESC Divest! Bookmark this site for up-to-date information about the effort to push for divestment at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wa.