In Depth

Israel fines New Zealand women for urging Lorde concert boycott

Judge rules ‘artistic welfare’ of three Israeli teenagers was harmed by actions of Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab

Two New Zealand activists have rejected an order by an Israeli court to pay damages for writing an open letter that convinced singer Lorde to cancel her show in Tel Aviv.

The activists “had been ordered to pay damages of 45,000 Israeli new shekels (£8,800) for causing mental harm to three Israeli teenagers who had purchased tickets to the concert”, reports Israeli news site Haaretz.

In December 2017 the Grammy winning New Zealand pop star cancelled her planned June 2018 concert in Tel Aviv after a social media campaign sparked by an open letter from Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab.

The lawsuit argued that Lorde’s response on Twitter after receiving the letter showed her decision was directly influenced by the New Zealand women’s plea.

“I have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show,” Lorde wrote at the time, adding: “I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one.”

But Sachs and Abu-Shanab wrote in the New Zealand publication The Spinoff they would not pay the fine and their conviction was “as upside-down as it gets, but sadly also a reflection of the arrogance of the Israeli state”.

The duo announced they will instead raise funds for The Gaza Mental Health Foundation, setting the $11,000 figure as their initial target sum.

“Our advice from New Zealand legal experts has been clear: Israel has no right to police the political opinions of people across the world. They also continue to believe that this is a stunt of which the sole intention is to intimidate Israel’s critics,” their statement said.

The pair’s open letter “came at the peak of a social media campaign for to a cultural boycott of Israel over its policies towards Palestinians, and contributed to Lorde cancelling the show”, says NewsWeek. The cancellation was hailed as a major victory for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Israeli court’s ruling is “believed to be the first effective use of a 2011 Israeli law allowing civil lawsuits of anyone who encourages a boycott of Israel”, says The Guardian.

The Israeli teenagers claimed their “artistic welfare” was damaged because of the cancellation and that they suffered “damage to their good name as Israelis and Jews”.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of the Shurat HaDin NGO, who filed the lawsuit, called the ruling “precedent-setting”.

“This decision makes it clear that anyone who calls for a boycott against the state of Israel could find themselves liable for damages and need to pay compensation to those hurt by the boycott call, if they’re in Israel or outside it,” Darshan-Leitner told The Jerusalem Post.

“We will enforce this ruling in New Zealand and go after their bank accounts until it has been fully realised.”

A spokesperson for the New Zealand ministry of foreign affairs told The Guardian New Zealand courts would have to decide if the claim for damages was enforceable.

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