Using an untested law, an Israeli legal group on Wednesday said it is suing two activists in New Zealand for allegedly getting singer Lorde to cancel a show in Tel Aviv.
The two activists, Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab, wrote an open letter to Lorde, urging her to “join the artistic boycott of Israel” over the land it has occupied and its treatment of Palestinians.
The singer tweeted on the subject, thanking the two for “educating” her on the subject before canceling her shows a few days later. Now, Sachs and Abu-Shanab are being sued under a 2011 Israeli anti-boycott law. Shurat HaDin, a legal rights group in Israel, claims the two activists knew their letter might prompt Lorde to cancel the show, and is suing them for $13,000 on behalf of concert goers.
“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 the lead lawyer for for the group, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, according to the Associated Press. “They must be held to compensate Israeli citizens for the moral and emotional injury and the indignity caused by their discriminatory actions.”
But the law for Prevention of Damage to State of Israel through Boycott, which allows Israelis to sue anyone in any country in the world, is seen as one that stifles free speech, and although the activists took credit for show being canceled on social media, it will be difficult to prove a direct link between their letter and Lorde’s decision to call off the June 2018 show.
Support for the law within Israel is far from universal, with petitions against it being filed at the country’s High Court at the time of its passage, and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel calling it “unconstitutional and anti-democratic.”
Promoters of the boycotting movement, also known as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, say it’s a grassroots, non-violent movement intended to promote the rights of Palestinians, whereas Israel says the campaign’s real aim is to destroy the country. Earlier this month, the Israeli government blacklisted 20 organizations for their support of BDS, including the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker group that helped refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.