Israel Boycott Activists Sued Over Lorde Tel Aviv Concert Cancellation

A controversial anti-boycott law is being used to sue two New Zealand nationals who took credit for persuading Grammy-winning pop star Lorde to cancel her concert in Tel Aviv.

The two women, Justine Sachs, who is Jewish, and Nadia Abu-Shanab, who is of Palestinian heritage, wrote an open letter to the singer last year that called on her to “take a stand” against Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

The women called on the New Zealand singer to “join the artistic boycott of Israel” and cancel the show. 

Lorde replied to the post on Twitter, writing: “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 subsequently cancelled the June concert.

Israeli rights group Shurat HaDin used the 2011 anti-boycott law for the first time to file a lawsuit at a Jerusalem court on Wednesday against the pair. It is filed on behalf of three ticket holders who were due to attend the Tel Aviv concert.

It seeks “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,” it added. In total, the lawsuit seeks up to $13,000 in damages.

01_31_Lorde_Israel Recording artist Lorde performs onstage during MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Fleetwood Mac at Radio City Music Hall, in New York, on January 26. A controversial anti-boycott law is being used to sue two New Zealand nationals who took credit for persuading Grammy-winning pop star Lorde to cancel her concert in Tel Aviv. Steven Ferdman/Getty

In response, Sachs tweeted: “Israel the only ‘democracy’ in the Middle East where New Zealanders get sued for exercising their freedom of speech…in New Zealand.”

It is not clear how the judgment will be enforced given that both Sachs and Abu-Shanab live in New Zealand and this is the first time the law has been used in the courts. If the court rules in the rights group’s favor, the defendants would likely face paying damages if they ever traveled to Israel. Shurat HaDin also hopes that legal agreements between Israel and New Zealand will help their case.

Lorde was met with both support and criticism after her cancellation. More than a hundred figures from the creative industries signed a letter published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

“We write in support of Lorde, who made public her decision not to perform in Israel,” the artists said in the letter. “We deplore the bullying tactics being used to defend injustice against Palestinians and to suppress an artist’s freedom of conscience. We support Lorde’s right to take a stand.”

But the 21-year-old singer was heckled by a pro-Israeli concertgoer this month for her decision. She has been accused in the Israeli media of “caving” to the boycott movement against Israel.

Israel has devoted as much as $32 million to combatting the boycott movement, deeming it a national security challenge that has anti-Semitism at its root.

The boycott campaign advocates applying nonviolent economic and political pressure on Israel to achieve equal rights for Palestinians in the country and calls for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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