Listen: Israeli lawfare “backfires” in New Zealand

On this episode of The Electronic Intifada Podcast: How Israel’s attempt to chill the boycott movement “has backfired” in New Zealand; Bay Area supporters of imprisoned Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi rally for her release.

Oakland protesters demand Ahed Tamimi’s release

More than 100 activists gathered on 31 January at the Federal building in Oakland, California, to demonstrate in solidarity with Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi, who turned 17 in Israeli military detention that same day.

Protesters connected Israel’s military detention of Palestinian children to the system of youth imprisonment in the US.

“None of them should be in prison – we say no more cages,” a speaker said. “Free Ahed and all political prisoners.”

Tamimi was detained during a night raid in the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh two months ago. She was arrested after video circulated showing her and a cousin slapping and shoving two heavily armed Israeli soldiers following an incident in which a soldier had shot in the head and seriously injured their 15-year-old relative Muhammad Tamimi.

Israeli leaders have vowed revenge against the Tamimi family and are subjecting Ahed, her mother Nariman and cousin Nour to military trials in kangaroo courts with a near-100 percent conviction rate.

Ahed Tamimi is one of some 300 Palestinian children currently in Israeli military detention.

Audio of the protest was recorded for The Electronic Intifada by Sajja Shawasheh of Arab Youth Organizing.

Israel lawfare group tries to intimidate activists

An Israeli lawfare group tied to the Mossad, Israel’s deadly spy agency, announced in January it was suing two activists in New Zealand who encouraged pop singer Lorde to cancel a performance in Tel Aviv scheduled for June.

However, the activists, Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab, told The Electronic Intifada Podcast that they have not received any official notice that they are being sued.

Since Sachs and Abu-Shanab are in New Zealand, and were exercising their free speech rights there, it is difficult to see how any Israeli judgment could be enforced.

Lorde, also from New Zealand, had called the cancellation of her gig “the right decision.”

The lawsuit was reportedly filed in Israel by the lawfare group Shurat HaDin under a 2011 law that allows Israelis to sue those who call for a boycott of Israel or its settlements built illegally on occupied Palestinian land.

The law is part of Israel’s effort to stifle speech and activism in support of Palestinian rights.

Legal bullying by Shurat HaDin by other anti-Palestinian groups is aimed at chilling speech critical of Israel and discouraging activists around the world from engaging with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights.

The escalation of tactics against New Zealanders “has backfired,” Abu-Shanab told The Electronic Intifada Podcast.

After reports of the lawsuit broke in that country, people responded with disbelief and called on the New Zealand government to support the activists, she said.

But she cautioned that Shurat HaDin “genuinely want[s] a world where criticism of Israel is criminalized – and in some ways they’re being successful with that.”

She added that groups like Shurat HaDin will “settle for the headline, that idea that might plant a seed in someone’s head that if you’re going to do this stuff, it may come at a cost.”

Meanwhile, a Florida lawmaker is attempting to have Lorde’s upcoming concerts in that state canceled as punishment for her cancellation of the Tel Aviv show.

In his demands, Republican state representative Randy Fine is citing a Florida law that prohibits public entities in the state from entering into contracts worth $1 million or more with blacklisted entities or others who boycott Israel.

Florida is one of two dozen states around the US that has passed an anti-BDS measure. Legal experts are challenging their constitutionality in courts: a federal judge blocked the enforcement of an anti-BDS law in Kansas, and a lawsuit has been filed against a similar measure in Arizona.

In November, Fine smeared critics of a proposed expansion of the state anti-BDS bill, calling them “Nazis” and “anti-Semites.”

“Quite terrifying”

Sachs noted that the escalated state repression against the boycott movement, particularly in the US, is “quite terrifying.”

But Lorde listened to her fans and cancelled her performance, invigorating the boycott movement, Sachs noted.

The activists referred to a growing generational divide as Israel continues to lose support from young people around the world.

“Zionist establishments are particularly worried because younger people live in a politicized time and they have a growing conscience about injustice locally and internationally,” Sachs told The Electronic Intifada Podcast.

Lorde is “a cultural ambassador for where we’re at,” Abu-Shanab said.

When fans of Lorde who had not been active in Palestine solidarity “heard about the fact that people were asking her to respect the boycott call and did some reading on it, they immediately understood what that meant and they immediately thought it was the right thing to do,” she added.

There is also memory of the country’s mobilization behind the anti-apartheid South Africa campaign, the activists say.

“I think we’re reaching more of a consensus in this country about boycotts being a reasonable action to take in a context of Israeli impunity,” Abu-Shanab said.

Listen to the interview with Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab, and sounds from the Oakland rally in support of Ahed Tamimi, via the music player above.

Production assistance and music by Sharif Zakout

Photo of Oakland rally by Bill Hackwell

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).