Israeli judgment in Lorde boycott lawsuit can’t be enforced

Lorde (Krists Luhaers)

This article has been updated with statements from Nadia Abu-Shanab and Justine Sachs.

An Israeli court in Jerusalem has ordered two New Zealand activists to pay more than $12,000 in damages because the pop singer Lorde canceled a concert in Tel Aviv last year.

The two activists have rejected the ruling, which legal experts say cannot be enforced anyway.

Nadia Abu-Shanab and Justine Sachs say they won’t pay and are instead using the publicity generated by the case to raise money to support mental healthcare in Gaza.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this year on behalf of three Israeli fans of Lorde, under Israel’s anti-boycott law.

The Israelis demanded that Abu-Shanab and Sachs pay them damages for “emotional distress” because the two New Zealanders wrote an open letter last December that helped persuade Lorde to respect the Palestinian call to boycott Israel over its gross violations of Palestinian rights.

“We won’t be paying”

The lawsuit was instigated by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli group linked to the Mossad spying and assassination agency.

Shurat HaDin uses lawfare – spurious and politically motivated legal proceedings – in an effort to harass, silence and deter supporters of Palestinian rights.

“Our advice from New Zealand legal experts has been clear: Israel has no right to police the political opinions of people across the world. They also continue to believe that this is a stunt of which the sole intention is to intimidate Israel’s critics,” Sachs and Abu-Shanab said in a statement reacting to the ruling.

“We will not be paying the court ordered amount,” the activists added. “Instead, we would like to use the publicity surrounding Israel’s stunt to return the attention and support back to Palestine and those paying the heaviest price for Israel’s actions.”

Already their crowdfunding campaign to support the the Gaza Community Mental Health Foundation has raised almost $7,000 dollars.

“Emotional distress is a lived reality for Palestinians in Gaza, where over half of children suffer PTSD as a result of Israeli attacks,” Abu-Shanab and Sachs said.

The two activists also said they have written to their government, urging officials to “make it clear that New Zealand will not stand by and allow Israel to attempt to bully its citizens.”

Unenforceable

Asked by Israeli media how the judgment could be enforced against the activists living in New Zealand, Shurat HaDin’s director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner this week asserted: “There is a treaty between Israel and New Zealand on enforcing judgments, so the decision by an Israeli court will affect those activists.”

But an expert on New Zealand law has dismissed this claim.

“There is no reciprocal agreement between New Zealand and Israel allowing for the automatic enforcement of judgments in each other’s jurisdiction. As such, an application for enforcement would have to be made in the New Zealand High Court and assessed under New Zealand’s law on such matters,” Andrew Geddis, a law professor at the University of Otago, told The Electronic Intifada on Thursday.

“And as neither of the defendants were in Israel when they wrote the article, the New Zealand court will not recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction over the matter,” Geddis added. “In short, the judgment has no effect whatsoever in New Zealand and cannot be used to make the authors pay anything.”

Limiting free expression

Even if a New Zealand court did accept that an Israeli court had jurisdiction over the New Zealand activists, an effort to enforce the judgment would face an additional hurdle.

“There is a real question whether a New Zealand court would treat the judgment as imposing an unjustifiable limit on freedom of expression under our New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and so refuse to enforce on this basis – as well as on the jurisdiction basis,” Geddis stated. “But that has not yet been litigated in New Zealand, so the answer isn’t as clear as on the jurisdiction point, which is quite settled law.”

Lorde’s decision to heed the activists’ call to cancel her show which had been planned for last June was widely hailed as a breakthrough for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Since then dozens of acts from all over the world have pledged to observe the boycott, and high-profile entertainers including Shakira, Gilberto Gil and Lana Del Rey have canceled engagements in Israel.

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Israel's jurisdictional claim over all other sovereign states and territories should be put to the test as speedily as possible. Of course, the proposition is absurd on its face. But there's always been more to this beast than its face. As Israel wields its influence ever more openly and aggressively (some would argue, desperately) in country after country, the powerful Zionist presence seeks to be converted into a form of legal authority. The Israel lobby submits legislation to parliaments and congresses, and imposes a "definition" of antisemitism which if successful will have the intended effect of suppressing public support for justice in Palestine. So it's important that these racist hijackers be exposed in courts of law. New Zealand should insist that official representatives of the Israeli state, and not just the law-fare front Shurat HaDin, stand before a New Zealand judge and present their case for overthrowing the constitution of that country. Because that's what Israel is demanding- a world-wide surrender to a legal system rightly branded an apartheid regime.

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