Zionist Fed NZ chief questions ruling against Lorde activists

An advocate for Israel has called a court order against two New Zealanders "controversial" and suggests the ruling might not be supported by Zionist groups. 

"I don't think it will be widely thought of positively even across many pro-Israel groups," said Robert Berg, president of the Zionist Federation of New Zealand. 

His comments came after an Israeli court ordered two New Zealanders to pay $12,000 damages for allegedly persuading Kiwi pop star Lorde to cancel her concert in Israel last year.  

Mr Berg told Newshub the ruling might be controversial, but said it's a civil case, which wasn't brought by the Israeli Government. The ruling was "within the laws of Israel and within the framework of Israel law," he said. 

The lawsuit was filed in January by Shurat HaDin, a civil rights NGO, on behalf of three teenagers who planned to attend Lorde's would-be concert in Tel Aviv. The lawsuit said the teenagers' "artistic welfare" was harmed. 

"[The lawsuit] would not have necessarily been my approach, but the NGO has worked within the realms of the Israeli legal system," Mr Berg told Newshub. 

"If [Lorde] really wanted to make a stance or make an issue around the situation between Israel and the Palestinians, then she could have done stuff while she was over there to try and promote peace."

The teenagers' attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner told The Jerusalem Post that Israel and New Zealand have legal agreements that will allow the Israeli court to pursue the New Zealand activists for the damages.

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

But University of Waikato Professor Al Gillespie told Newshub the lawsuit is "a complete attack on our freedom of speech," and said Israel "won't be able to enforce that penalty in the New Zealand courts."

"[The court ruling] will have a deterrent effect on a lot of other people who want to say things within the media or social media, in particular," Mr Gillespie told Newshub.

"There will be a lot of international interest in this issue because once these people have been sued, there's a strong likelihood that other people who have said something that could damage Israel could follow."

Mr Berg agreed that it's "important people have the opportunity to express their views," but said the lawsuit fits within the Israeli legal system. 

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

The two Kiwi activists Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab, are both BDS activists, and had appealed to Lorde in an open letter published on The Spinoff to boycott Israel and cancel her concert, to which Lorde agreed.   

"I think it shows that there is... a big bias towards Israel," said Mr Berg. 

Other artists to have cancelled concerts in Israel include Snoop Dogg, Lauryn Hill, and Stevie Wonder. In September, singer Lana Del Rey caused an uproar after she cancelled a planned show in Israel because she was unable to schedule one for Palestine.   

"When they cancel their concert in Israel you have to sort of question why they are doing that and why they are focusing on Israel," said Mr Berg. 

Over 100 well-known artists including writers, actors and directors, came out in support of Lorde after she cancelled her Israel show. The artists pledged their support for the Kiwi songstress in a letter published by The Guardian in January.  

Bu Mr Berg said he believes it would have been more productive had Lorde gone to Israel and used her influence to bring about change in the country. 

"If she really wanted to make a stance or make an issue around the situation between Israel and the Palestinians, she could have done stuff while she was over there to try to promote peace with groups who are actively working to co-exist together."

"I think it would be great if she does decide to go to Israel, whether it is for a concert, or to see what life in Israel is like for herself," he added.

"Therefore, she can make an informed decision rather than on the back of a letter that was published by an online media publication."