Cancelled Israel Lorde gig sparks anti-boycott lawsuit

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An Israeli advocacy group has launched a lawsuit against two New Zealanders for allegedly convincing pop singer Lorde to cancel a concert in Israel.

It is thought to be the first case filed under a 2011 Israeli law allowing civil lawsuits against anyone calling for a boycott of the country.

Critics say the law stifles expression.

The two defendants wrote an open letter to Lorde last month urging their fellow New Zealanders to "take a stand" and "join the artistic boycott of Israel."

Justine Sachs and Nadia Abu-Shanab argued that Lorde's concert, which was to be held in Tel Aviv in June, would show support for Israel's occupation since the 1967 Middle East war of the West Bank and East Jerusalem - land the Palestinians claim for a future state.

"We're two young women based in Aotearoa, one Jewish, one Palestinian... We feel strongly about this," they wrote, using the Maori name for New Zealand.

Lorde responded by saying she was considering her options. A few days later she cancelled the concert.

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Untested in court

The 2011 law authorises civil suits to recover damages from "anyone who publishes a public call for a boycott of the state of Israel, and its content and circumstances may reasonably be expected to lead to a boycott".

The Israeli group Shurat Hadin announced on Wednesday that it had filed a suit against Ms Sachs and Ms Abu-Shanab for "their role in procuring the cancellation of a scheduled music concert" as part of a "cultural boycott".

It is seeking about £9,000 ($12,800) in damages on behalf of three teenage Lorde fans who it said suffered "emotional injury" as a result of the cancellation.

Correspondents say the law has not been tested in court, and a link between a boycott call and an actual boycott may be hard to prove.

Even if the plaintiffs are successful, it is not clear how the ruling can be enforced abroad. But Shurat Hadin said it hoped it would be covered by existing legal agreements between Israel and New Zealand.

The open letter was published by the two New Zealanders amid international controversy late last year over a decision by US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.