Lorde's Israel cancellation: BDS campaigners allowed to express 'extreme views' - free speech advocate

If Lorde went to Israel she'd quickly learn the BDS movement is "based on lies and really works against peace", a free speech advocate has claimed.

Lorde was scheduled to play Tel Aviv earlier this year, but canned the gig after two Kiwis wrote an open letter urging her to reconsider.

"I'm not too proud to admit I didn't make the right call on this one," she said in a statement confirming the gig's cancellation.

The call, right or wrong, is back in the headlines this week after an Israeli court fined the Kiwis more than $18,000 for harming Israeli fans' "artistic welfare", under a 2011 Israeli law that allows civil lawsuits against anyone who encourages a boycott of Israel.

But University of Auckland lecturer David Cumin, a member of the controversial Free Speech Coalition and Israel Institute of NZ, says the lawsuit should never have gone ahead.

"Hate speech laws don't necessarily work, and they're not seen as in line with free speech," he told Newshub.

"While the BDS campaign is obviously discriminatory, and based on lies and really works against peace, that shouldn't be a reason that advocates of it aren't able to express their extreme views."

BDS is short for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions - a movement aimed at forcing Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories and give Palestinians the same rights as Israeli citizens. It has support from big names like anti-apartheid Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, the late Stephen Hawking and Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters.

Dr Cumin says if Lorde went to Israel she'd see it's not the "evil, heinous" place the BDS movement portrays it as.

"If Lorde were able to play for her Israeli fans that she has - like she played for her Russian fans and her Kiwi and American fans - that would be a great step towards peace," he said.

"Visit the disputed territories, talk to everyone there, see all sides of the situation, and hopefully she'll learn a little bit more and be more encouraged to work for dialogues, rather than for discriminatory action that seeks to boycott and divide."

Lorde and Roger Waters.
Lorde and Roger Waters. Photo credit: Getty

The Kiwis who wrote the open letter - Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab - say they only learned of the fine when they were contacted by the Jerusalem Post for comment.

"I didn't have any comment because that's the first I'd heard of it," Ms Sachs - a Jewish New Zealander - told Newshub.

 The pair have no intention of paying the fine.

"They did make thinly veiled threats that they were going to come after our bank accounts - I think they will be shocked at what they find I am a student," said Ms Sachs.

University of Waikato law professor Alexander Gillespie said it's unlikely the Israelis will get anything.

"The penalty won't be imposed. I mean, unless they travel to Israel it would be imposed - Israel could try to impose it in New Zealand, but it's very, very, very unlikely that would happen."

Alexander Gillespie.
Alexander Gillespie. Photo credit: Newshub.

Zionist Federation of NZ president Rob Berg supports the law, but questions whether it was used correctly in this instance.

"It's controversial, even perhaps within the Zionist community and the pro-Israel community, whether this is the right way to go. It is a civil case, it's not a state case against the two, and it was brought independently by an NGO."

He says the law is "there really to be looking at people who I think are very instrumental in actively seeking the destruction of Israel".

Ms Sachs and Ms Abu-Shanab are unrepentant, saying they would do it all again. They're currently crowdfunding to raise the $18,000 - but instead of paying the fine, want to donate it to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation.

Lorde said in December she'd like to one day play in Tel Aviv.