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Israeli lawfare organization sues BDS activists for advising Lorde to cancel Israel concert

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An Israeli ‘legal rights group’ said Wednesday it is suing two New Zealanders for allegedly convincing the pop singer Lorde to cancel her performance in Israel in what appears to be the first lawsuit filed under a contentious Israeli anti-boycott law, reported AP.  

Interestingly, the target is not Lorde herself, who has her own mind, and who has replied to a tweet of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist 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.”

No – the target of the group is the BDS activists – Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab. Shurat Hadin is suing on behalf of three Israeli would-be concertgoers for about $13,000 in damages, for “moral and emotional injury”. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the group’s head and a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said:

“They must be held to compensate Israeli citizens for the moral and emotional injury and the indignity caused by their discriminatory actions”.

A month ago, I noted how Justine Sachs was getting the full ‘kapo’ treatment in the Israeli press. And now this ‘legal rights group’ is going after her and her activist colleague, legally. But is Shurat Hadin really a ‘legal rights group’?

In 2015, Shurat Hadin held a conference titled “Towards a new law of war”, which focused on helping Israel use “lawfare” to defend its crimes in courts around the world. Key speaker was Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who said:

“We are going to hurt Lebanese civilians to include kids of the family. We went through a very long deep discussion … we did it then, we did it in [the] Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future.”

Whoa, hang on – the Israeli Defense Minister just said he is going to deliberately and indiscriminately target not merely civilians – but even, explicitly, children. This is said at a conference of a ‘legal rights’ group. If this group had any respect whatsoever for international law, it would have thrown Yaalon out at that very moment. But Yaalon was not thrown out. He was in fact merely accentuating the Dahiya Doctrine, which was coined in 2008 by current Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot , named after Israel’s levelling of the Beirut neighborhood in 2006. It should thus be clear, that the aim of Shurat Hadin is not ‘legal rights’ – it is to assault international law and tailor it to support war crimes.

The other main theme of Yaalon’s speech, which closed the conference, was the “challenge” of BDS. Yaalon sought to cast the grassroots activist movement as a kind of military front. He said that “delegitimization, BDS and lawfare” were just “another tool” in the war of Israel’s enemies. But who is doing the lawfare here, really?

It is BDS activists who are seeking to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. The anti-boycott law which Israel passed in 2011, a law which even Israel’s Attorney General deemed “borderline illegal”, allows plaintiffs to file a civil lawsuit against those who are claimed to boycott them for political reasons – be they in Israel or in occupied territories. Amnesty International condemned the law in unequivocal terms:

“Despite proponents’ claims to the contrary, this law is a blatant attempt to stifle peaceful dissent and campaigning by attacking the right to freedom of expression, which all governments must uphold,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “The broad definition of boycott could apply to anyone seeking to use this non-violent means of dissent to criticize any individual or institution involved in human rights violations or violations of international law in Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories”, he added.  

The law has not yet been tested in court. Shurat Hadin leader Darshan-Leitner said that the law poses a challenge, “because proving a link between a boycott and a call for one is difficult”. She said in this case the connection is clear, claiming that the first time Lorde brought up her reservations on the Tel Aviv performance was after the Sachs and Abu-Shanab’s letter, and that the two women “took credit” for Lorde’s decision to cancel on social media and elsewhere.

So why aren’t Shurat Hadin and the plaintiffs taking Lorde herself to court – if they think that the connection is so clear? If it is, it should follow, that Lorde was boycotting Israel for political reasons?

Maybe they thought that this would not be such good PR, against such a prominent and popular star. And it’s all about PR really. Darshan-Leitner says that “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”. Unjust by who? By the Israeli state alone. Illegal by who? By Israel alone. Israel is squarely contravening international law and democratic norms. At the core of this are its own violations of international law. Then there’s the laws seeking to protect it from any challenge to these violations. And everyone in the world is supposed to be afraid, because Israelis will sue them?

Some people think Israel needs to go crazy, and that we need to allow it to do that. New York Times columnists Thomas Friedman made the argument this week in his column, where he endorsed the logic of the Dahiya Doctrine, and opined that Israel has to go crazy because its enemies need to learn that you can’t “out-crazy” Israel. Because “this is not Scandinavia”.

That’s Friedman. But some people think that’s crazy. And international law has something to say about it too. But Israel and its acolytes like Shurat Hadin, seem to think that challenging Israel for its madness is, in itself, crazy, and that the “moral and emotional injury” of those poor Israelis who couldn’t hear Lorde live, is a very important thing. Far more important than the lives of Palestinian children.     

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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12 Responses

  1. eljay on February 2, 2018, 9:56 am

    … Shurat Hadin is suing on behalf of three Israeli would-be concertgoers for about $13,000 in damages, for “moral and emotional injury”. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the group’s head and a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said:

    “They must be held to compensate Israeli citizens for the moral and emotional injury and the indignity caused by their discriminatory actions”.

    Captain Israel hangs his head in shame.

    • US Citizen on February 2, 2018, 6:09 pm

      @eljay – First, Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab should sue for defamation and libel. Second, Palestinians by the hundreds should sue israel for the moral and emotional injury and the indignity caused by israels discriminatory actions.

      As for those three poor israelis – wow what sensitive little flowers the apartheid state is raising – these kids are suing because they didn’t get the concert they wanted.

      Palestinian children aren’t getting electricity for longer than a few hours. They aren’t getting to see their loved ones who are now in refugee camps. They aren’t getting to go to school because the gates are locked at the crossings points. They aren’t getting a good nights sleep because israeli soldiers like doing house searches at 2 am. They aren’t getting to see themselves grow up because israeli snipers like imprisoning and killing Palestinian kids.

      We should all feel for these israeli kids who missed out on seeing a concert they had so been looking forward to? Oh hell no.

      • oldgeezer on February 2, 2018, 9:47 pm

        I think Lorde should offer them tickets to her next performance, regardless of where it is, for the price of 13,000. That’s what it’s worth to them apparently. A reasonable settlement offer and restitution.

        Seriously…. whether it’s Shurat Hadin, the lawfare project or Israel itself it would appear Finklestein seems to have hit the nail on the head when he called it the lunatic state.I guess the effect is trickle down.

        Seriously though they shouldn’t counter sue but they should place their own suit against Israel and against Shurat Hadin for their emotional pain and trauma in their own country. I would certainly help crowd fund the cost.

        Israel and it’s citizens are so absolute beyond the edge of the cliff that they don’t realize that attack people in other countries and trying to destroy free speech rights is turning even supporters away let alone those that sat on the fence. Either they’ve been in the bubble too long or they are drunk on their perceived (non)power.

  2. ckg on February 2, 2018, 11:23 am

    I am no lawyer, but I am unaware of any treaty between New Zealand and Israel that would require New Zealand to enforce a civil judgement of an Israeli court if the defendants are in New Zealand. So the whole lawsuit seems pointless except for ill-advised PR.

    • inbound39 on February 2, 2018, 11:28 pm

      There judgement won’t fly here. Freedom of Speech is protected here

  3. Ossinev on February 2, 2018, 1:52 pm

    “They must be held to compensate Israeli citizens for the moral and emotional injury and the indignity caused by their discriminatory actions”.

    Ah bless the poor fragile dears. All those sleepless nights , the oceans of tears and the horrendous impact on their self esteem.

    On my one and only visit to Zioland ( and my last whilst it remains Zioland) when leaving the hell hole at Ben Gurion(sic) Airport I was asked variations on the same question approximately 10 times by the young “Immigration” officer who either had extremely short term memory or had been instructed on the induction/indoctrination course to use this technique just to piss off Goyim visitors. I suppose in retrospect that I could have consulted a lawyer and sued for the “emotional injury” this caused. But then again unlike Zios I suffer from the twin diseases of integrity and intellectual fortitude.

  4. on February 2, 2018, 3:58 pm

    ahh the victim card yet again – zionists have made an art of it – a culture of victimhood

    these poor israeli zionists didn’t get the chance to enjoy a Lorde concert on stolen land violently cleansed of its indigenous inhabitants by the most moral army in the world for God’s chosen people to enjoy their divine exclusive right to the land – clearly these concertgoers are victims that should be compensated.

    It’s not all bad – I hear this guy is available to fill Lorde’s spot.

  5. pabelmont on February 2, 2018, 6:28 pm

    If the defendants are not Israelis, then the result of the lawsuit seems nil — there may not be any law in New Zealand, for instance, to make it a crime to give a history lesson to a singer. Free speech or whatever.

    As for Israel itself, assuming the anti-BDS law holds up, it may be that the parties defendant must themselves be Israelis (or residents of Israel) (or present in Israel at the time of the BDS agitation) — I confess I don’t know what the statute says.

    On the other hand, some states (the USA for one) make laws to punish acts outside the normal jurisdiction of the state which impinge on state interests or state citizens (or so I believe). But as a rule, a defendant must be within the jurisdiction of the court or the lawsuit will be thrown out; and if outside, getting money damages might be as hard as getting blood from a stone.

    We’ll look on with interest. Keep the reports coming!

  6. kev on February 2, 2018, 10:11 pm

    If this case is actually ever served (with whatever service is considered proper in New Zealand) then I think it would be appropriate for Justine and Nadia to communicate everything to Lorde and suggest that this is indeed why Lorde should never, ever consider performing in Israel again, or for any organization complicit with the occupation. Maybe (if NZ bothers to try to enforce any kangaroo-court judgment against Justine and Nadia) Lorde could even pay the judgment along with a note explaining why she will never, ever play Israel.

    If these people want to see Lorde, let them travel to a law-abiding country that is not persecuting and oppressing millions of people under a brutal military occupation (West Bank) and siege (Gaza). Or not, preferably. Extreme Zionists should not be welcome in polite company.

  7. inbound39 on February 2, 2018, 11:09 pm

    I can tell you that all the kiwi’s I know in New Zealand are laughing out loud at Israel for thinking we give a damn about Israel. We have protection of freedom of Speech under our Bill of Rights and a right to protest without getting tear gassed or hit with rubber bullets or live fire. Israel can go to hell. They have absolutely no jurisdiction over what we do or say and we can easily close their pissant embassy here anytime we choose. Can’t see why National allowed to let it reopen in the first place.We don’t want the Zionist attitude anywhere in or near NZ.

  8. Stogumber on February 4, 2018, 6:08 am

    Well, I am somewhat stunned by the naivete of our NZ commenters. Don’t they know about the debates in other countries of the Anglosphere?
    The general tendency is that anti-discrimination laws, including incitement of BDS, overrule freedom of speech. These kinds of lawsuits could be brought to court in Canada or Britain with a real hope of success. In Australia things are in the making, but it is already clear that BDS supporters will have to fight an uphill struggle.. And NZ comes next, logically.
    (And of course, in France the BDS supporters would already be sentenced.)

    • inbound39 on February 4, 2018, 10:42 am

      Lol…Israel would be unwise to push it. They are not exactly colour of the month around the Globe or maybe you missed that. Any further action from them would simply raise the ire of and motivate the global community to tighten restrictions on Israel more. Seems you missed the articles on Europe tightening up restrictions on settlements. NZ lawyers are also quite formidable and blunt so Israel will recieve an education if nothing else. Israel really doesn’t want to draw anymore attention to itself right now….it is bleeding too much money already.

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