Israeli court says New Zealand activists must pay for Lorde cancellation

Two women ordered to pay over $12,000 in damages to disappointed fans in first-ever successful civil suit under 2011 anti-boycott law

Lorde performs at Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California, on April 16, 2017. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Lorde performs at Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California, on April 16, 2017. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

A Jerusalem court on Thursday ordered two New Zealand women to pay over $12,000 in damages for allegedly helping persuade the pop singer Lorde to cancel a June 2018 performance in Israel.

The precedent-setting decision is based on an Israeli law that allows civil lawsuits against those who call for a boycott against Israel.

The two New Zealanders, Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab, had appealed to the singer in an open letter to “take a stand” and “join the artistic boycott of Israel.”

At the time, the New Zealand singer-songwriter replied to a tweet of the letter, saying, “Noted! Been speaking [with] many people about this and considering all options. Thank u for educating me i am learning all the time too.” She canceled her show days later.

Attempts to reach Sachs and Abu-Shanab were unsuccessful Thursday.

Three Israeli ticket holders filed the suit, claiming the cancellation had caused emotional distress. Their lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, said the decision sends a message that boycotting Israel carries a price.

Darshan-Leitner’s organization Shurat HaDin filed the lawsuit in February, saying it was “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. They must be held to compensate Israeli citizens for the moral and emotional injury and the indignity caused by their discriminatory actions.”

Sachs, who is Jewish, and Abu Shanab, who is of Palestinian origin, mocked the lawsuit in February, telling Radio New Zealand, “As far as we are concerned, this ‘case’ has no legitimacy. Our New Zealand friends and colleagues at work today were incredulous at news of our rumored legal predicament.”

The 2011 law opens the door to civil lawsuits against anyone calling for a boycott of Israelis by virtue of their nationality or place of residence — and controversially includes boycotts of West Bank settlements in its definition of discriminatory boycotts. Critics contend the law could stifle free expression.

The lawsuit by Shurat HaDin marked the first application of the law.

Supporters of an Israel boycott say it is a nonviolent way to promote the Palestinian cause. It has urged businesses, artists, and universities to sever ties with Israel and includes thousands of volunteers around the world.

Israel says the campaign, some of whose proponents call for a return of Palestinian refugees to land inside Israel, goes beyond opposition to the West Bank occupation and masks a deeper aim of dismantling the Jewish state altogether.

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