Israeli court orders NZ activists to pay for Lorde's cancelled concert

An Israeli court has ordered two New Zealanders to pay damages for allegedly persuading Lorde to cancel her concert in Israel.

The 21-year-old Kiwi pop star confirmed she had cancelled plans to perform in Tel Aviv in December last year amid a backlash from Palestinian rights campaigners.

The 'Green Light' hitmaker was applauded by some for announcing her first gig in Israel, but others urged her to boycott the country as several other artists have, over its reported human rights abuses. 

Jewish New Zealander Justine Sachs and Palestinian New Zealander Nadia Abu-Shanab, both 'Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions' (BDS) activists, had appealed to Lorde in an open letter published on The Spinoff to boycott Israel.

Many of the international artists who choose not to host concerts in Israel are members of the BDS movement, which "works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians".

The pair of activists explained to Lorde the history of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and why they hoped she would call off her Tel Aviv concert. New Zealanders, they said, are "progressive, forward-thinking people."

"Israel might seem like a world away from New Zealand but that shouldn't stop us from speaking out and being on the right side of history."

Lorde - whose real name is Ella Yelich-O'Connor - acknowledged the request, and cancelled her show - planned for June 2018 - on Christmas Day. She thanked the activists for "educating" her and said she is "learning all the time too".

The lawsuit in Israel had been brought by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court against the pair of New Zealand activists to pay over $12,000 in damages for allegedly convincing Lorde to cancel her show in the Middle Eastern country.

The lawsuit was filed in January on behalf of three teenagers who planned to attend Lorde's concert in Israel. Despite all three of them receiving refunds when the show was cancelled, the suit demanded damages for the teenagers, over claims their "artistic welfare" was harmed.

The lawsuit cited the 2011 Israeli Anti-Boycott Law, which allows for civil suits against groups who call for a boycott of the state of Israel, The Jerusalem Post reports. The law has been criticized for stifling freedom of expression.

"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," said attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.

Israel and New Zealand have legal agreements that will allow the Israeli court to pursue the New Zealand activists for the damages, Darshan-Leitner told the Post.

"We will enforce this ruling in New Zealand, and go after their bank accounts until it has been fully realised."

University of Waikato Professor Al Gillespie told Newshub the lawsuit is "a complete attack on our freedom of speech".

Lorde came under intense scrutiny after she cancelled her gig in Israel. A full-page advertisement in The Washington Post called the singer a "bigot".

Israeli ambassador to New Zealand Itzhak Gerberg accused the singer of "succumbing to [a] hateful agenda".

Last month, Reuters reported that six Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers, who were among thousands of those protesting in weekly demonstrations launched half a year ago.

At least 190 Palestinians have been killed since protests began in Gaza on March 30 to demand rights to land lost to Israel in the 1948 war of its foundation.


Contact Newshub with your story tips: