An Israeli legal rights group are seeking damages under a controversial anti-boycott law
Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab, who have Jewish and Palestinian heritage respectively, published an article in The Spinoff last year urging Lorde to cancel the performance, originally scheduled for June 2018. “Millions of people stand opposed to the Israeli government’s policies of oppression, ethnic cleansing, human rights violations, occupation and apartheid,” they wrote. “As part of this struggle, we believe that an economic, intellectual, and artistic boycott is an effective way of speaking out against these crimes.”
Lorde responded to the authors in a tweet: “Noted! Been speaking (with) many people about this and considering all options. Thank u for educating me i am learning all the time too.” Lorde cancelled her show a few days later, with her decision praised by Palestinian organisations but criticised by pro-Israel groups.
Now, in an extremely regular and normal response to a pop concert cancellation, Israeli legal rights group Shurat HaDin is suing the authors of the letter under a controversial anti-boycott law. The 2011 ‘Law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott’ allows people in Israel to sue those who initiate a boycott against the state, regardless of their nationality, and allows courts to impose damages against the defendants.
The group filed the lawsuit in a Jerusalem court on Tuesday (January 30) on behalf of three Israeli would-be concertgoers. They claim that Sachs and Abu-Shanab were the ones who convinced Lorde to cancel and are asking for roughly $13,000 in damages.
“This lawsuit is an effort to give real consequences to those who selectively target Israel and seek to impose an unjust and illegal boycott against the Jewish state,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the group’s head and a lawyer representing the plaintiffs. “They must be held to compensate Israeli citizens for the moral and emotional injury and the indignity caused by their discriminatory actions.”
The law has not yet been tested in court as it’s hard to definitively prove a link between a call for boycott and an actual boycott – but Darshan-Leitner says that, in this case, the connection is clear because Lorde only brought up her concerns after Sachs and Abu-Shanab wrote the letter. If the lawsuit is successful, Darshan-Leitner says she hopes legal agreements between Israel and New Zealand will help enforce any court ruling.
Sachs did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but tweeted: “Lawsuit is ... real... a stupid stunt but a real stupid stunt”. Representatives for Lorde have not yet responded to request for comment.
Israel has taken measures in recent years to combat the growing BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement, which as we wrote in an explainer on Israeli concert boycotts, is a non-violent international grassroots initiative modelled on the South African anti-apartheid movement. Their demands are the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, the dismantling of the West Bank wall, the Palestinian Right of Return, and an end to segregation.
Update 01/02/2018: Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab have responded to reports of the lawsuit. “Yesterday we heard rumours we were allegedly being sued by Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin,” they write in a statement. “We believed this was a hoax, after receiving the news secondhand from a journalist. We have not received any summons or other formal notice. On this basis, as far as we are concerned, this ‘case’ has no legitimacy... Still, Shurat HaDin has gone to the media alleging to be suing us on behalf of three ticket holders who are seeking $13,000 in damages, some of which is for the ‘moral and emotional injury’ they suffered from being denied Lorde’s concert. We all loved Melodrama, but really?”
“The fact is, Israel is attempting to suppress those who dare criticise their human rights abuses,” they continue. “Israel thinks it can bully people into silence, recently passing a law banning organisations and individuals who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement from entering the country. Groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights are some of the organisations now blacklisted. Israel’s move to ban pro-BDS organisations is the latest in a long list of anti-democratic actions by the Israeli government aimed at undermining freedom of speech.”
“Shurat HaDin... are one example of a growing anti-democratic sentiment. The law firm have launched unsuccessful after unsuccessful lawsuit aimed at Israel’s critics... With our open letter to Lorde we joined a chorus of millions of people across the world who are calling for justice and peace in Israel/Palestine. People who know the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is a legitimate, non-violent strategy to pressure Israel into ending its occupation and apartheid regime. No intimidation tactics can or will stifle this growing movement.”
You can read the full statement on Medium.