After the popular New Zealand musician Lorde received multipl e requests from her fans who support a boycott of Israel to cancel her concert there, the singer followed through in did so. Now the individuals who originally called for the cancellation are being sued.
Guest post by Mike Masnick of Techdirt
Let's start this post off this way: the whole "BDS" movement and questions about Israel are controversial and people have very, very strong opinions. This post is not about that, and I have no interest in discussing anyone's views on Israel or the BDS movement. This post is about free speech, so if you want to whine or complain about Israel or the BDS movement, find somewhere else to do it. This is not the post for you. This post should be worth discussing on the points in the post itself, and not as part of the larger debate about Israel.
Back in December, the very popular New Zealand singer Lorde announced that she was cancelling a concert in Israel after receiving requests to do so from some of her fans who support boycotting Israel.
"I've received an overwhelming number of messages & letters and have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show," Lorde wrote of her decision.
"I pride myself on being an informed young citizen, and I had done a lot of reading and sought a lot of opinions before deciding to book a show in Tel Aviv, but I'm not too proud to admit I didn't make the right call on this one."
No matter what you think of BDS/Israel it does seem clear that Lorde should have the right to decide where her concerts will be -- and where they will not be. But in response to this, some of the people who had purchased tickets for the show, along with a "legal rights" group named Shurat HaDin have decided to sue. They're not suing Lorde. They're suing two New Zealanders who wrote an open letter to Lorde, pleading with her not to perform in Israel. And they're suing them in Jerusalem.
The Washington Post explains the ridiculous rationale for the lawsuit:
Shurat HaDin's lawsuit is based on a 2011 Israeli law allowing legal action to be taken against one “who knowingly publishes a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel.” Although the case will be heard in a Jerusalem court, the law applies to foreign citizens and the ruling is binding abroad, according to international legal treaties.
If successful, the two women in New Zealand, Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab, will be forced to pay damages to the three Israeli teenagers of as much as $5,000 each.
This is, apparently, the first use of that law -- which has remained controversial in Israel for a damn good reason. Even if you are against the BDS movement, basic civil liberties concepts around free expression should find this whole thing dangerous and ridiculous. The idea that Lorde choosing not to perform in Israel would constitute "damage" on Israel seems ridiculous on its face. The fact that these ticket buyers think that the proper response to someone saying something they don't like and persuading a famous person to do something they don't like is to sue rather than to try to persuade people in the other direction seems like an indictment of their own ability to make their case.
And, of course, there's the whole issue of them living in countries halfway around the world from each other. While the Washington Post seems to think the law can be enforced outside of Israel's borders, the NY Times story quotes someone who's doubtful:
Adam Keller, a spokesman for Gush Shalom, a group that has unsuccessfully challenged the law, said he was not sure that an Israeli court would accept the idea that “being deprived of the pleasure of listening to your favorite singer would be considered damage.”
“There is also a serious question to whether Israeli law can even apply to people in another country,” he said. “Only on things that are considered universal laws, like genocide or piracy, is that normally accepted.”
Any attempt to enforce a judgment in such a case, he said, could quickly become a diplomatic problem for Israel.
A diplomatic incident because a musician decided not to perform. Time to get some perspective.