Israeli judgment in Lorde boycott lawsuit can’t be enforced

Lorde (Krists Luhaers)

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

The Israelis demanded that the two activists, Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab, pay them damages because the New Zealanders wrote an open letter last December that persuaded Lorde to respect the Palestinian call to boycott Israel over its gross violations of Palestinian rights.

Mossad-linked lawfare

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.

At the time the lawsuit was reportedly filed, Sachs and Abu-Shanab said they had only heard about it through media. “We have not received any summons or other formal notice,” they stated. “On this basis, as far as we are concerned, this ‘case’ has no legitimacy.”

The two activists have not commented publicly since news of the Israeli court’s judgment against them.

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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