New Zealand BDS Activists Reject Israeli Fine Over Lorde's Cancellation

'Israel has no right to police the political opinions of people across the world,' say Jewish and Palestinian activists being sued

Singer Lorde poses for photographers during an promotional event in Hong Kong, November 18, 2014.
Vincent Yu/AP

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.

"Our advice from New Zealand legal experts has been clear: Israel has no right to police the political opinions of people across the world," Jewish-New Zealander Justine Sachs and Palestinian-New Zealander Nadia Abu-Shanab said in a statement Friday.

The activists had been ordered to pay damages of 45,000 Israeli new shekels (12,400 dollars) for causing mental harm to three Israeli teenagers who had purchased tickets to the concert.

>> Lorde on Israel concert cancellation: 'Right decision at this time' to nix Tel Aviv show

Sachs and Abu-Shanab said they believed the legal action was "a stunt of which the sole intention is to intimidate Israel's critics."

The lawsuit is the first ruling to cite a controversial 2011 Israeli anti-boycott law that allows civil action against entities who call for a boycott of the state.

University of Waikato law professor Alexander Gillespie told Radio New Zealand that the decision could have a chilling effect on free speech.

"This is political theatre. This is not really a legal issue - this is about a court in Israel trying to create a precedent, and it will have quite a large global impact," he said.

A lot of people might fear "that if you're critical of Israel, no matter where you are in the world, you could be sued."

The suit was filed in January by attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner on behalf of Israeli law group Shurat HaDin.

"There are reciprocal treaties between Israel and various countries to enforce foreign judgments, and now after the verdict, we will go after their bank accounts until it is fully realized," Darshan-Leitner said in a statement.

But New Zealand's Justice Ministry said a foreign judgment was not automatically enforceable in New Zealand.  "Whether enforcement occurs is matter for the New Zealand courts to determine based on the circumstances of the case and relevant case law," a spokesperson told dpa. 

In December, Sachs and Abu-Shanab's letter to Lorde was published by website The Spinoff.

"Playing in Tel Aviv will be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government, even if you make no comment on the political situation," the activists wrote.

The singer responded on Twitter, saying the concerns had been "Noted!"

Days later, the 21-year-old New Zealander cancelled the performance which was due to conclude her Melodrama world tour.

Artists who have participated in the cultural boycott of Israel through the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement include Brian Eno and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, writers Arundhati Roy and Eduardo Galeano and film-maker Ken Loach.