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.