Last year the New Zealand pop star Lorde cancelled her performance in Israel due to the persuasion of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activists (BDS), sparked by a letter written by New Zealand activists Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab, who are respectively of Israeli-Jewish and Palestinian background. Sachs was offered the full ‘kapo’ (Nazi-traitor) treatment in the Israeli press .
Meantime, Israeli ‘lawfare’ organization Shurat Hadin, an NGO, carried out a legal crusade to sue the activists, even though they were not in Israel when they penned the letter, and even though Lorde made up her own mind and was neither forced to perform nor to cancel. Shurat Hadin represented three teenage girls, demanding damages be paid by the activists for bringing about the cancellation.
Last week an Israeli court ruled that Sachs and Abu-Shanab must pay damages to Israeli teenagers Shoshana Steinbach, Ayelet Wertzel and Ahuva Frogel totaling more than NZ $18,000 ($11,700). The court found the two New Zealand women damaged the “artistic welfare” of the three Israeli teenagers, and perpetrated “damage to their good name as Israelis and Jews”.
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of Shurat HaDin, who filed the suit called the ruling “precedent-setting”:
“This decision makes it clear that anyone who calls for a boycott against the state of Israel could find themselves liable for damages and need to pay compensation to those hurt by the boycott call, if they’re in Israel or outside it”.
But Shoshana, Ayelet and Ahuva, whose ‘artistic welfare’ and ‘good name’ are now damaged beyond recognition, can apparently go and cry themselves a river – because Justine and Nadia are not paying. The two stated:
“We will not be paying the court-ordered amount…
“Instead, we would like to redirect the support extended to us back to Palestinians in need of mental health support.”
The two activists decided to crowd-fund $12,000 and donate it to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation. The money was gathered within three days from about 400 donors, as the Guardian reported on Monday. By the time of writing two days later, the amount has reached nearly $38,000, from 766 donors.
Enforcement of the Israeli fine in New Zealand is not likely. Legal experts said that enforcement would not be automatic and that a new case would have to be launched in a New Zealand court seeking an enforcement of Israel’s ruling. Darshan-Leitner from Shurat Hadin has nonetheless promised to pursue the case:
We will enforce this ruling in New Zealand and go after their bank accounts until it has been fully realised.”
We shall see. In any case, Sachs and Abu-Shanab have already won. Like Martial-arts experts, they took all that punishing energy from the Israelis and turned it to love for Palestinians. They have made the Israelis look pampered, angry, selfish, pedantic and petty. Sachs and Abu-Shanab are on the right side of history, and they are showing how care and magnanimity are stronger than the sour Israeli self-righteousness. When Lorde cancelled her concert last year, she offered humility: “I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one”, she wrote. But the Israeli nationalists are attempting to use as much audacious chutzpah as they can, trying to punish anyone anywhere in the world for using their common sense and their democratic, non-violent means of protest, against an Apartheid state.
The Israelis may try to take this further in New Zealand, but this will only open another battle in which the Israelis are likely to lose, because there is something called free speech in New Zealand, and fortunately New Zealand has not passed legislation against BDS, as some Western countries have. Darshan-Leitner’s claim that the ruling will be enforced upon people who do not live in Israel and who are in absentia, appears to be in the spirit of the letter recently submitted by the Israeli government to the Supreme Court in defense of its ‘theft law’ (legalizing theft of Palestinian own land):
The Israeli government claimed that it can “legislate anywhere in the world”, that it is “entitled to violate the sovereignty of foreign countries”, and that it “is allowed to ignore the directives of international law in any field it desires”.
These outrageous Israeli dramas and extravaganzas are made in defense of criminality. Rather than defending the state, they are merely exposing the farce, and further confirming Israel’s continued plunge into a moral abyss. Against such darkness, the BDS stars can only shine brighter.