The Israel-based Shurat HaDin rights group claims New Zealanders Nadia Abu Shanab and Justine Sachs knew that a letter they wrote to Lorde urging her to cancel the June show could trigger a boycott, making them open to a suit under the law.
The group, which filed the lawsuit in a Jerusalem court on Tuesday, is suing on behalf of three Israeli would-be concertgoers for about $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 three plaintiffs. “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, of Palestinian origin, said they had yet to receive a summons regarding the lawsuit.
“As far as we are concerned, this ‘case’ has no legitimacy,” they told Radio New Zealand Thursday.
“Our New Zealand friends and colleagues at work today were incredulous at news of our rumored legal predicament,” they added.
The two New Zealanders penned an open letter to Lorde last year in which they urged her to “take a stand” and “join the artistic boycott of Israel.” 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.
The lawsuit appears to be the first legal measure filed under a contentious Israeli anti-boycott law.
The 2011 law opens the door to civil lawsuits against anyone calling for a boycott against Israel, including of settlement goods, if that call could knowingly lead to a boycott. The law, which is part of Israel’s fight against a global movement calling for boycotts against the Jewish state, allows for courts to impose damages against defendants. Critics said the law would stifle free expression.
“We all loved Melodrama, but really?” Sachs and Abu Shanab mocked, riffing on the name of a Lorde album and suggesting that missing the concert was not worth the $13,000 for which they were being sued.
The New Zealanders further ridiculed Shurat HaDin, telling RNZ that the rights group has launched numerous unsuccessful lawsuits against former US president Jimmy Carter, Australian academic Jake Lynch, and the World Vision charity.
“These lawsuits went nowhere because they have no legal means nor jurisdiction to control what people can and cannot say about Israel abroad,” they added.
Sachs and Abu Shanab said such tactics “only embolden” them.
The 2011 law is one of a number of measures Israel has taken in recent years to combat an international movement advocating for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against the Jewish state.
The movement’s supporters 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, with its call for a return of Palestinian refugees to land inside what is now Israel, goes beyond opposition to the West Bank occupation and masks a deeper aim of destroying the entire country.